MP Margaret Ferrier has broken her silence to explain how she “panicked” when she received a positive result for a coronavirus test in her Westminster office after taking part in a Commons debate.
Despite the barrage of criticism that followed the revelations 12 days ago that the suspended SNP MP travelled to London after taking the test, then returned to Scotland by train after receiving a positive result, Ferrier said she would not resign and that she was “continuing to work hard for my constituents”.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, told Sophy Ridge on Sky on Sunday morning she continued to believe Ferrier should step down: “I’ve read her comments in the media today but I still hope she will do the right thing,” she said.
In an interview with the Scottish Sun on Sunday, Ferrier said she took the test after experiencing a “tickly throat” on a Saturday afternoon, but woke up the following day, 28 September, symptom-free.
“I think that’s why I was so shocked and panicked on Monday night when I got my result and thought, ‘How has this happened because I don’t feel unwell?’ Over the last six months the regulations and guidelines have changed and been so muddled.”
Discussing her decision to return home from the Commons by train, she said: “A lot of people say Covid makes you do things out of character. You are not thinking straight. I’m not making an excuse.”
Unlike some SNP colleagues, Ferrier did not maintain a regular residence in London.
She said: “I think I was worried I would be told to self-isolate in a hotel room for two weeks. I felt there was no alternative – that’s why I took the train.”
Last week, it was reported that Ferrier attended a church service and gave a reading to the congregation the day after she took a test for coronavirus. The MP’s social media posts also show she visited a gift shop, a beauty salon and a leisure centre in her constituency on Saturday 26 September, the day she developed symptoms.
Describing the onslaught of criticism she has faced over the past 10 days, with cross-party calls for her resignation, Ferrier said: “You feel you are getting a lot of criticism from people you thought were your colleagues or friends who’d understand it was an error of judgment.”
“People may be saying, ‘You should have known better, you’re a public figure.’ But at the end of the day it still hurts. You then think about all that hard work and dedication – is that just wiped away?”
Asked on Sky why Ferrier had not been expelled from the SNP, Sturgeon said that “due process” was necessary.
Sturgeon added: “I have to stand and ask people across the country to do horrendously difficult things, to not visit their loved ones. Right now I’m asking people to understand why they can’t go to a pub or a restaurant, and it is unacceptable that somebody in her position flagrantly disregarded the rules like that and I cannot be clearer about that. It is not acceptable and she should resign.”
As well as the police, Ferrier has referred herself to the Commons standards commissioner. If the standards investigation results in suspension from the house for 10 days or more, this would trigger a recall petition, which would allow her constituents to decide whether they want a byelection.
Sturgeon was also asked on Sky if she had lost control of the virus in Scotland. The first minister said that while the virus was “spreading a little bit faster” in Scotland, the number of cases per 100,000 were the lowest of the four nations.
“That is because over the summer we suppressed the virus … That doesn’t mean we can be complacent about it, or not take it very seriously. It shows we were right to do that over the summer and I think we’re right now to act quickly and decisively to try and stop that increase in cases.”