Scotland's Sturgeon Tells Manchester Leader to Have 'Grown-Up Conversation' Amid COVID Spat

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon suggested that she and Mayor Andy Burnham of Greater Manchester should have a "grown-up conversation," amid a spat over COVID-19 restrictions.

Scotland is banning nonessential travelers from the metropolitan county in northwestern England because of rising coronavirus cases, a move Burnham called "insulting." He said the Scottish government should repay those hit financially by the ban.

"I've always got on well with Andy Burnham, and if he wants to have a grown-up conversation, he only has to pick up the phone," Sturgeon said Monday following Burnham's comments.

Burnham said the ban has "had an impact with people with holiday cottages booked, people who are having to go for work reasons." Rates of coronavirus infections in Greater Manchester are three times higher than in Scotland, according to recent surveys, which say around one in 200 citizens in the county have contracted the virus.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon receives her second dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on June 21 in Glasgow. Jeff J Mitchell/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Sturgeon said that the ban on people from Manchester and nearby Salford entering Scotland was made on public health grounds based on COVID-19 levels in the area. Although Scotland is part of the U.K., its government has powers over matters relating to public health.

New coronavirus infections around the Greater Manchester area are running higher than most places in the U.K., which in the midst of what scientists describe as a third wave of infections as a result of the Delta variant first identified in India. Another 10,633 new cases were recorded on Monday, one of the highest daily levels since February, when the U.K.'s second wave of new infections and deaths was coming under control during a strict lockdown.

"These are public health measures," Sturgeon told the BBC. "I have a duty, and it's one I take very seriously, to keep Scotland as safe as possible."

Burnham, of the Labour Party, said the ban, which took effect Monday, had "come out of the blue."

"It's not just the direct impact on Greater Manchester, it's on our reputation as a city," he said.

Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party that wants to take Scotland out of the U.K., countered by suggesting that Burnham, one of the highest-profile politicians in the opposition Labour Party, was playing politics.

"But if, as I suspect might be the case, this is more about generating a spat with me as part of some positioning in a Labour leadership contest in future, then I'm not interested," Sturgeon said.

"I'm serious about doing that job in a way that keeps Scotland as safe as I possibly can," she added.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon receives her second dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, administered by staff nurse Susan Inglis, at the NHS Louisa Jordan vaccine centre in Glasgow, Scotland, Monday June 21, 2021. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via AP