THE SNP has hit out at the Tory Government's plan to stop virtual participation at Westminster, saying it could effectively "lock Scotland out of Parliament".

The party also said it could increase the risk of spreading coronavirus to communities.

On Tuesday Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg announced that MPs should return to the Commons after May's Whitsun recess, to "give the right message" for the public to return to work. It came just a day after the Commons made history in a successful remote vote of all MPs. 

Welsh regulations currently rule out anything but local travel, while the three non-English nations are still urging people to "stay at home".

Following today's House of Commons Business Statement, SNP Shadow Leader of the Commons, Tommy Sheppard, said Scottish MPs must be able to "hold the UK Government to account".

He added: "Tory moves to stop virtual participation at Westminster would create an unnecessary risk of infection in our communities – and could effectively lock Scotland out of Parliament.

"The clear message in Scotland is 'stay home to protect our NHS and save lives'. The option of virtual participation must remain so Scotland's MPs can continue to hold the UK Government to account and represent our constituents safely.

"Requiring MPs to travel back and forth hundreds of miles across the UK would disrespect Scotland's more cautious approach and risk spreading the virus in communities across the UK.

"If the Tories want to take a riskier approach in England that is their right - but they must respect the different rules in each of the four nations by ensuring virtual participation continues."

The Electoral Reform Society, said Westminster risks "becoming an England-only Parliament".

Chief executive, Darren Hughes, said: “Just as the virtual Commons finds its feet, the government are hitting the brakes.

“Virtual proceedings must be allowed to continue if advice to ‘stay at home’ remains in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Otherwise, this risks becoming an England-only Parliament, with other nations locked out. This is a grave threat to political equality and the principles of parliamentary democracy.

“MPs have shown they are able to work well from home. There should be no rush to scupper the successful innovations we’ve seen – from video-link to remote voting.

“MPs from across the nations have expressed support for maintaining the ‘hybrid’ proceedings until the pandemic is over. Closing that off unnecessarily will weaken parliament, not strengthen it.

“Speaker Hoyle has made it clear MPs and staff should not be forced to return until it’s properly safe and legal to do so. The government must not ride roughshod over these concerns.”