A rift between Andy Burnham and Nicola Sturgeon over the SNP’s travel ban escalated on Wednesday night, when a slanging match erupted after an acrimonious meeting.
The pair spoke during a call convened by the UK Government, which the Greater Manchester Mayor said he hoped would help resolve the leaders’ row over restrictions on movement imposed by the SNP.
However, after the talks broke up a source close to the Scottish First Minister accused Mr Burnham of making an “incoherent and absurd” contribution to the meeting.
A spokesman for the mayor also accused Ms Sturgeon of misunderstanding the situation, claiming she had dismissed out of hand the plight of ordinary people who had lost money as a result of her policy.
He also criticised the Sturgeon camp for leaking confidential details of the private summit, claiming he was forced to respond only because misleading information had been released.
The summit was held after the airline Easyjet announced that it had axed two new routes connecting Manchester and Scotland because of the controversial travel ban.
The First Minister last week announced the extension of a legal ban on non-essential travel between Scotland and Bolton and Blackburn to include Manchester and Salford, citing high coronavirus rates there.
During the call, she is understood to have claimed Mr Burnham’s attacks on the ban was contradictory as advice on his authority’s own website urges people to minimise travel in the area.
Nicola Sturgeon is refusing to back down
“The First Minister pointed out the stark contradiction between what Andy Burnham has been saying in recent days and his own authority’s clear advice to minimise travel,” a source close to the First Minister said.
“Burnham had no proper answer to that. His attempted explanation was incoherent and absurd.”
However, Mr Burnham is said to have argued that the advice reflects the UK Government’s position, rather than his own, and that it is not backed up by law as is the case with Ms Sturgeon’s rules.
The mayor has said he will consider taking legal action to win compensation for his constituents, some of whom he said had lost thousands of pounds after booking holidays which they have now been forced to cancel.
He has criticised the ban as illogical and over-the-top, particularly as Dundee has a proportionally higher number of cases than some areas covered by the travel restrictions. There are also parts of England with higher virus rates with no travel ban.
A spokesman for Mr Burnham said: “We are surprised that the Scottish Government has briefed details of a discussion in what we were told was a confidential meeting. But, given this has happened, we need to be clear on what was said.
“The First Minister accepted that she should have told the mayor before she announced her decision. We also welcome her acceptance that the Scottish Government needs to provide more information about how they reach their decisions on bringing in regulations and travel bans that affect other parts of the United Kingdom."
He added: “We are, however, disappointed that the First Minister completely dismissed the financial impact her decision has had on residents in Bolton, Manchester, and Salford, and the need for her government to consider providing compensation.
"These people had no advance notice, no ability to change their plans and are now left out of pocket."