Sturgeon: Royals were warned Edinburgh visit could breach cross-border covid travel ban

7 December 2020, 16:12 | Updated: 7 December 2020, 16:55

By Asher McShane

Nicola Sturgeon said her Government "made sure that the Royal Household were aware" about the ban on non-essential cross border travel between Scotland and England ahead of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's trip to Edinburgh.

William and Kate arrived in Edinburgh this morning to the sound of bagpipes before meeting workers at a Scottish Ambulance Service hub as part of their whistlestop three-day train tour of the country.

They first went to meet ambulance staff in Newbridge, near Edinburgh, before hopping back on the train to travel to see Holy Trinity First School in Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland.

But crossing the Scottish border for non-essential reasons was made illegal from the end of November. Those caught entering or leaving Scotland without a reasonable excuse can face a £60 fine.

There are exceptions, including travel for work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, but only when this cannot be done from home.

Nicola Sturgeon said the Royal family had been reminded about the rules around cross border travel
Nicola Sturgeon said the Royal family had been reminded about the rules around cross border travel. Picture: Scottish Government

In a briefing today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the royal household was briefed that the trip could fall foul of the restrictions.

"The Scottish Government was advised about the intention to visit, and we made sure that the Royal Household were aware, as you would expect, of the restrictions in place in Scotland so that could inform both the decision and the planning of the visit," she said.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to the Scottish Ambulance Service response centre in Newbridge, Edinburgh
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to the Scottish Ambulance Service response centre in Newbridge, Edinburgh. Picture: PA

Professor and Chair of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University's Medical School Devi Sridhar tweeted: "Love it here but some things I will never understand about Britain. Aren’t we all in a pandemic & living under travel restrictions?"

In Edinburgh, William and Kate spoke to paramedic Alistair Matson about how he had to cope with his father falling ill and later dying in hospital during the pandemic.

Mr Matson, 54, said: "It was very emotional talking to the prince about losing my father.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leaving Batley Community Centre, West Yorkshire
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leaving Batley Community Centre, West Yorkshire. Picture: PA

"He was very anxious to hear how we managed to cope with the mental strains of our job."

He added: "It was really heartening to see the royal couple here today acknowledging what we do and their thanks means a lot to us."

His colleague, John Kane, told the royal couple that he spent three weeks in an induced coma in Edinburgh's
Western General Hospital after contracting the virus.

The 59-year-old said: "It was a terrifying time and the recovery has been slow, but again the SAS has helped that."

It also emerged during the visit that William and Kate had sent a special bouquet of flowers to the family of a veteran paramedic, who died last month after he re-enlisted in April four years after his retirement.

Rod Moore, from Falkirk, died aged 63 after contracting coronavirus.

His funeral was due to take place during the royal visit.

A spokesman for the ambulance service said: "I know that Rod's family greatly appreciated the flowers sent on behalf of the royal family. It was a lovely gesture."

The visit coincided with the announcement that the duke and duchess have become joint patrons of NHS Charities Together.

The 240 NHS charities in the UK provide extra funding and additional services above and beyond what the NHS core-funds, supporting hospitals, community and mental health services, and ambulance services.

Earlier, William and Kate pulled into Edinburgh Waverley station to the sounds of a piper playing Christmas songs including Jingle Bells and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.

The duke was the first to step out of the Royal Claret-coloured carriages, adjusting his face mask as he did so, followed by Kate.

The duchess, in a Liberty print face covering, was dressed in a smart blue Catherine Walker coat and black gloves, while William was wearing a navy coat and a tartan scarf.

They were welcomed to the city on the platform by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Sandra Cumming and chatted briefly, before then thanking the piper and leaving the station to make their way to their first engagement.

The couple travelled overnight after setting off on Sunday evening from London's Euston station on the special tour, which will see them thank communities, outstanding individuals and key workers for their efforts during the coronavirus crisis.

Ahead of departure, they left a personal message of thanks for transport workers on a London Underground service information board.

Kensington Palace shared images of the notice at Euston and of Kate writing the words and William signing it.

Their message read: "Thank you to all transport workers everywhere for keeping the country moving throughout this difficult year.

"Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

"Catherine. William"