Nicola Sturgeon joins in criticism of anti-English protest in Borders

Scottish Government first minister Nicola Sturgeon today added her voice to the chorus of condemnation of an anti-English protest staged in the Borders at the weekend.

By Darin Hutson
Monday, 6th July 2020, 4:06 pm
A nationalist demonstrator taking part in an anti-English protest in the layby at the Scotland-England border on the A1 on Saturday.
A nationalist demonstrator taking part in an anti-English protest in the layby at the Scotland-England border on the A1 on Saturday.

Holyrood justice secretary Humza Yousaf had already slammed Saturday’s protest by nationalist sympathisers, in a layby alongside the A1 at the Scottish-English border north of Berwick, as “horrible, reprehensible and vile”, and Ms Sturgeon echoed that criticism at her daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh this afternoon.

“The people who protested at the border did not speak for me,” she said in response to a question from ITV Border political reporter Greg Hoare.

“They were not there on my behalf and they were not there communicating a message that I endorse in any way. In fact, I would emphatically say I don’t endorse that.”

Nicola Sturgeon at today's Scottish Government coronavirus outbreak briefing in Edinburgh.

“This is not a question about whether people in England are welcome in Scotland. Of course they are, just as people in Scotland, hopefully, are welcome in England.

“It’s about public health, and what I have made clear is, just as we have seen in other parts of the world right now, I will take decisions based on protecting the people of Scotland if there is a risk to public health.

“That is not political, that is not constitutional and it’s certainly not based on any desire to keep English people out of Scotland.”

Mr Yousaf, MSP for Glasgow Pollok, had tweeted later on Saturday: “If you are a racist, you are no friend of mine and no part of the movement I belong to.

“Luckily these morons don’t represent the Scotland I know and love.”

That stance was backed by Ms Sturgeon today, saying: “I agree with Humza Yousaf’s comments about racism.”

Saturday’s protest near Lamberton saw several demonstrators clad in white or transparent protective suits and tartan or saltire masks flying flags, holding up placards and telling travellers heading north from England to turn back as they want to keep Scotland “free of Covid-19”.

In a video posted on social media, one campaigner said: “Basically what we’re saying is ‘stay the f*** out’.”

The weekend’s protest followed last week’s furore over Ms Sturgeon refusing to ruled out quarantining visitors from England heading into Scotland via crossing points such as Carter Bar and Lamberton.

It has also been slammed by Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont, saying: “This is appalling – I can’t quite believe it – nationalists telling English people to ‘stay the f*** out of Scotland’.”

South Scotland Labour list MSP Colin Smyth added: “I was completely appalled to see the pictures at the weekend of these xenophobes gathering on the border holding up signs telling visitors from England that they weren’t welcome.

“Many of the people travelling on the A1 will be Borderers who travel everyday between Scotland and England for work, shopping or leisure.

“This week, pubs and restaurants in the Borders begin the long road back to recovery by opening outdoors, and in the months ahead those reliant on tourism will hopefully start to reopen.

“The shocking images we saw on the border will do nothing to encourage anyone to visit Scotland to support those businesses and the local jobs that rely on them.

“There was not the smallest shred of evidence to suggest that anyone driving on the A1 on Saturday was breaking any rules and the fact that the images were then widely shared, in a positive way, on social media by senior SNP politicians is disgusting.

“Scotland is an open and welcoming country, and the actions of this small group reflect badly on us all.

“At her daily press conference, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the protesters did not speak for her or her party, but she needs to ensure that the rest of her SNP colleagues are aware that xenophobia will not be tolerated in this country.”