Andy Burnham has accused Nicola Sturgeon of making their dispute over the Scottish National Party’s travel ban “personal” in an effort to distract from the harm her policy is causing.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester said he was merely doing his job when he criticised the Scottish First Minister’s policy, which means about one million of his constituents have been banned from Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon initially dismissed Mr Burnham’s concerns by suggesting he was only trying to start a high-profile rift with her as part of a bid to become Labour leader.
After talks between the pair on Wednesday, a source close to the First Minister then claimed he had floundered when attempting to explain a “contradiction” whereby he had criticised Ms Sturgeon’s ban but people are urged not to travel in or out of his area on his own authority’s website.
Speaking to a BBC Radio Manchester phone-in on Thursday, Mr Burnham was asked about “name calling from across the border” from Ms Sturgeon.
He said: “It does annoy me… to kind of deflect from the issues that I’m raising, they make it personal. That’s how it seems to me.
“I try not to do my politics in that way. I don’t think it should be made personal because it’s not about me, it’s about people who are out of pocket because holidays that they had booked have been cancelled through no fault of their own.”
Mr Burnham is demanding compensation for residents who had booked holidays, but have now been forced to cancel as a result of Ms Sturgeon’s ban.
It is understood that at their meeting, Ms Sturgeon vowed to fight Mr Burnham, who has raised the prospect of legal action, to avoid paying out.
Scots are also banned from going to Manchester, Salford, Bolton or Blackburn for an indefinite period. Mr Burnham has claimed the policy makes little sense.
According to the latest figures, East Lothian and Dundee have higher Covid rates than any of the English areas hit by the travel ban, but there are no restrictions in place in Scotland.
Scotland recorded its highest daily number of confirmed Covid cases for the second day in a row on Thursday, with 2,999 people testing positive.
Mr Burnham said: “We’ve reached a stage of the pandemic I think where we can’t just keep banning people from things and restricting things.
“What the Scottish government has done is a backward step, it’s sort of taking us back to 2020 where we just imposed bans on people at the last minute. I personally don’t think it’s justified.”
Ms Sturgeon has claimed the ban was imposed for legitimate public health reasons given the high coronavirus rates in Greater Manchester.