SCOTTISH Secretary Alister Jack has complained that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland setting their own coronavirus rules “muddles the message”. 

Speaking to the Scottish Affairs Committee this morning, the Tory MP said that the devolved nations should “be grown up and not be different for the sake of it” to suit their “agenda”.

Health is devolved, so throughout the pandemic the four nations have responded differently to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

England, for example, chose to change its coronavirus slogan from “Stay at Home” to “Stay Alert” back in May, and encouraged people to return to work if they could not work from home.

Meanwhile the devolved nations kept the Stay at Home messaging for much longer and did not make the same call for people to return to work.

In easing lockdown the nations have also taken different approaches on which countries to remove from the quarantine lists, where face coverings are necessary, and before the rule of six was introduced in England and Scotland, how many people could meet as part of social gatherings.

But Jack argued at today’s committee meeting that there needs to be “simple messaging” across the UK.

He told MPs: “We are effectively one country – not effectively, we are absolutely one country. We have borders … the virus doesn’t respect. They are geographic borders, not physical borders. And really we have to understand people move around the UK whether on business or visiting families or on holiday and what I’ve come to understand very strongly since I last spoke to you Andy is we need to stop the confusion.

“All the administrations in these weekly meetings we have should actually just be grown up and not be different for the sake of it to try and … whatever agenda they have. It hasn’t brought anyone to a different outcome. The prevalence of the virus is pretty, you know, it’s as high in any part of the UK as another. You can point to low areas and high areas but on average all four nations are experiencing similar problems.

Jack, the MP for Dumfries and Galloway, went on: “Whether changes to social distancing rules, or the joint-biosecurity centre on quarantine that I talked about earlier, or even the UK Government has a Hands, Face, Space message to the public, the Scottish Government has gone for FACTS.”

“I just think all of those things are in a funny way, it’s just harder, it muddles the message – I see this particularly with a constituency which is close to the Border, with England, and particularly again the rule of six and before that how many people from how many households you could have, one side of the border or another. I saw no logic in the rules being different.

READ MORE: WATCH: Health expert explains why BBC should air all of FM's virus briefings

“Going forward, if we’re living with this for a long time to come, we should have clear simple messaging.”

SNP MP Deidre Brock shared the clip, writing: “This is Tory Scottish Secretary Alister Jack saying that Scotland and Wales shouldn't be allowed to decide what to do on tackling Covid.”

Speaking to The National last week, public health expert Professor Linda Bauld argued that trust plays a key role in getting guidance across to the public.

Saying she had no interest in politics, she added: “Trust in government is much higher in Scotland than it is in England, and I think that these briefings and the broadcasts have contributed to this level of trust.”

Public health expert Devi Sridhar, who advises the Scottish Government on their coronavirus response, has also said trust plays a key role in whether the public follows the guidance.