Coronavirus: 'Astonishing recklessness' - MP suspended for taking 400 mile train journey despite knowing she had COVID-19

1 October 2020, 18:09 | Updated: 2 October 2020, 04:38

An MP who took a train hundreds of miles from Westminster to her constituency despite knowing she had coronavirus has been suspended from her party and is facing calls to resign.

The Scottish National Party's Margaret Ferrier originally travelled down to London and attended Parliament while waiting for her coronavirus test result.

She then spoke in the commons, knowing that she had recently developed symptoms of the disease.

Once she had a positive result she took a train 400 miles back to Glasgow.

She said there was "no excuse for my actions" and "I apologise unreservedly for breaching COVID-19 restrictions by travelling this week when I shouldn't have".

Ian Blackford, the party's Westminster leader, said he has suspended Ms Ferrier, who has agreed to refer herself to the parliamentary standards commissioner and the police.

SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her actions were "utterly indefensible".

She added: "It's hard to express just how angry I feel on behalf of people across the country making hard sacrifices every day to help beat COVID. The rules apply to everyone and they're in place to keep people safe."

Fellow SNP MPs David Linden and Kirsty Blackman called on her to resign.

In a statement, the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West said she took a coronavirus test on Saturday, having experienced mild symptoms that day.

"Feeling much better, I then travelled to London by train on Monday to attend Parliament as planned," she said.

"This was wrong, and I am very sorry for my mistake."

On Monday, Ms Ferrier spoke in the coronavirus debate in the Commons. That evening she says she tested positive.

Her statement continued: "I travelled home by train on Tuesday morning without seeking advice.

"This was also wrong and I am sorry. I have been self-isolating at home ever since.

"I have used Test and Protect and I have notified the House of Commons authorities who have spoken with Public Health England. I have also notified the police of my actions.

"Despite feeling well, I should have self-isolated while waiting for my test result, and I deeply regret my actions.

"I take full responsibility and I would urge everyone not to make the same mistakes that I have, and do all they can to help limit the spread of COVID-19."

A Commons spokesman said Ms Ferrier told the SNP whip about her positive test on Wednesday afternoon.

"The Speaker was informed and the House authorities immediately took all necessary steps in line with their legal obligations and PHE guidance," they said.

"On the basis of the information supplied to the contact-tracing system, only one individual has been identified as a close contact in relation to this case and is now self-isolating."

Ms Ferrier posted a number of pictures on her Twitter account on Saturday of visits to places in her constituency - including a beauty salon and a leisure centre - but it is not clear if the visits occurred that same day.

Ms Ferrier called for Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's senior adviser, to resign after it was revealed he travelled more than 200 miles to County Durham from London at the height of lockdown.

At the time she told the Daily Record: "The public health advice is crystal clear. For the safety of others, anyone with coronavirus symptoms must self-isolate, in line with government guidance. They should not leave the house for any reason."

Labour's shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said her "astonishing recklessness" had "put people's health at risk", while MSP and former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said "she has to go".

SNP MP David Linden told BBC Question Time: "I've got to say I'm pretty furious with the behaviour of Margaret Ferrier MP. It's utterly inexcusable and it's right that she lost the whip for that.

"I don't think her position is tenable and she should resign."

:: Subscribe to Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

Train drivers' union Aslef said: "We've worked day in, day out to keep our railway as safe as possible for passengers and staff. For an MP to get on a train knowing she has COVID-19 is both dangerous and disgraceful."

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "We are aware of the circumstances and are liaising with our colleagues in the Metropolitan Police Service."

The MP would face a £1,000 fine for a first-time offence of breaching self-isolation rules, under a law that came into force the same day she tested positive.