SCOTLAND has a “good moral case” for using border controls to prevent the spread of Covid from England, according to an expert, as a new poll shows nearly three-quarters of people north of the Border back the idea.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is not ruling out imposing quarantine on visitors from other parts of the UK if it is supported by public health evidence as a necessary measure to prevent the resurgence of the virus.

A new Panelbase poll carried out for Wings Over Scotland published yesterday found 73% of Scots voters believe border restrictions should be happening now or potentially in the future to prevent the spread of the virus.

The prevalence of Covid-19 is currently estimated to be five times lower in Scotland than in England, according to the Scottish Government.

The re-opening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers in England yesterday has raised concerns of a resurgence in the virus, with the UK Government’s own scientific advisers warning it is not “risk-free”.

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Last week Boris Johnson said he found the suggestion of quarantining visitors from England “astonishing” and provoked an outcry after stating: “There is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland.”

But Scotland’s leading historian Professor Sir Tom Devine pointed out not only does the Border date back to the 13th century, it has gained increasing significance in recent years.

“The Anglo-Scottish Border was defined in law by two important treaties,” he said.

“The first was the Treaty of York in 1237 which was signed by the two sovereign states. The second was the Treaty of Union in 1707.

“Renewal of the legal status of the Border in that year was important because the Scottish institutions of the national Church and the system of private law, with their pre-Union rights and privileges, were maintained throughout Scotland to the Border with England.

“With the coming of devolution and the Scottish Parliament, the public significance of the Border has increased as the Scottish Government now has control of key areas of domestic policy within the territory of Scotland ending at the Border.”

Devine also pointed out the Border has been closed off in the past – in 1950 when the Stone of Destiny was removed from Westminster Abbey. Roads into Scotland were blocked by police cordons in an unsuccessful attempt to find the culprits.

He added: “People might be surprised and indeed shocked that a prime minister of the UK is apparently so ignorant of such a central part of British history – but perhaps not in the case of this current Prime Minister.”

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Sturgeon has highlighted the example of New York, which recently introduced a 14-day quarantine period for those travelling in from states with higher transmission rates of the virus, along with New Jersey and Connecticut.

Speaking about implementing the measure, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “We’ve worked very hard to get the viral transmission rate down and we don’t want to see it go up again because people are travelling into the state and bringing it with them.”

Nick Megoran, professor of political geography at Newcastle University, who specialises on international boundaries, said the Covid crisis has brought about changes in how borders operate across the world.

“There is the boundary, which is the legal agreement of the edge of sovereignty and that boundary is legally recognised and known, we know where jurisdictions end,” he said.

“A border is a set of practices about control of movement and people and what we have seen with the Covid crisis around the world is suddenly new borders are emerging between different states and different countries.

“So although there is not an international boundary or an international border between England and Scotland, one could envisage the emergence of temporary sets of border controls for public health reasons.”

MEGORAN pointed to the example of New Zealand, which closed its border to almost all travellers as part of efforts to control Covid.

“It is these really tough restrictions which have helped eradicate the disease from New Zealand,” he said. “So these measures do work, we have seen that.”

Existing quarantine rules mean travellers arriving into Scotland from outwith the UK must provide their contact details and self-isolate for 14 days.

Failure to complete the locater form can lead to a fine of up to £480 and not complying with quarantine could lead to a penalty of up to £5000.

The First Minister confirmed on Friday this will still apply to anyone who arrives back via England if it introduces quarantine-free “air bridges” to certain countries, which are not implemented in Scotland.

Megoran suggested measures such as questioning those arriving at train stations, could be also used to enforce quarantine of people arriving from the rest of the UK.

He said a significant rise in cases in England while the virus continued to fall in Scotland would strengthen the case for restricting movement over the Border.

“If the situation gets out of hand in England and the Scottish politicians deem this is an irresponsible early relaxation of restrictions which threatens public health in Scotland, I think a good moral case could be made for the limited use of short-term border controls for general public health,” he added.

The idea of potentially introducing quarantine for English visitors has been backed by Scottish Government adviser Professor Devi Sridhar, who said while Scotland was trying to eliminate the virus, England was aiming to “re-open as soon as possible”.

Yesterday as lockdown was significantly eased south of the Border, she tweeted she would be surprised if case numbers in England remained low over the next two weeks.

Sridhar said it showed a “zero- covid” Scotland could only happen with England’s co-operation.

However Keith Neal, Emeritus Professor of the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nottingham, criticised the Scottish Government’s approach and argued local lockdowns for virus hotspots were more effective than quarantine.

He said: “What would you do about people who work on one side of the Border and live on the other? We are basically one land mass.”

He added: “I think quarantining visitors from England for two weeks is unjustified. It has no logical sense to it, given that 10% of England’s cases are in Leicester – which probably means the rest of England is little different to Scotland. On Wednesday, Sturgeon said there were no plans to introduce any such quarantine measures “right now” but added she was not ruling anything out.

Whether the plans go ahead remain to be seen, with the Scottish Government yesterday advising there has been no change in that position.

Sturgeon has insisted any steps taken to continue to reduce levels of Covid in Scotland will not be influenced by politics. She said: “The decisions I take and the Scottish Government take to tackle that virus must be 100% driven by public health considerations – what is it we need to do to break the chains of transmission and mitigate against the risk of cases in an area of high transmission coming into an area of lower transmission and then risking outbreaks there. “That is not political, that is not constitutional, that is public health.”