TORY MSP Oliver Mundell has been accused of putting lives at risk after he resigned from the Scottish Tory frontbench over concerns about new rules restricting travel to England.

He quit as the Douglas Ross’s rural economy and tourism spokesman, saying he could not vote with the party to back the Scottish Government’s tough new travel ban. 

The Dumfriesshire MSP said the restrictions hampered the “the very specific needs of my constituents”.

READ MOREOliver Mundell resigns role over party stance on Covid travel rules

But South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine blasted the Tory, saying he was ignoring the exemptions allowed in the law. 

Mundell was, she said, playing “to an ultra-Unionist base on the right of his party for whom British nationalism trumps public health”.

The new law - which comes into force at 6pm today - significantly restricts travel within Scotland and makes it illegal to enter or leave the country without a reasonable excuse.

That means anyone from Scotland travelling to England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, or anyone travelling into Scotland from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. risks a minimum £60 fixed penalty fine.

However, there is a long list of exemptions to the restrictions, including around work, education, health and caring. 

The ban was backed by 99 MSPs in a Holyrood vote on Thursday; 23 opposed including two Tories, Mundell and Michelle Ballantyne.

READ MORE: Covid: Holyrood backs cross-Border travel ban as two million enter level 4

Mundell’s decision to vote against the party whip meant he was forced to resign from his frontbench position. 

In a statement, he said: “On this occasion it was sadly not possible to balance the very specific needs of my constituents with the need to take a collective view as a party that works for the whole country. 

“I understand the difficult position that puts colleagues in and I have therefore regrettably offered Douglas Ross my resignation as a party spokesperson. I continue to fully support him and the party.”

In response, the Scottish Tory leader said: "Oliver always puts the needs of his constituents first and while I'm very disappointed to see him leave the shadow cabinet, I appreciate that he is only doing what he feels is best for his local area.”

McAlpine disagreed. Taking to Twitter last night, she suggested Mundell’s action might have more to do with an internal selection battle. 

She tweeted: “Oliver Mundell’s resignation tonight from the Scottish Tory front bench over the @ScotParl vote for anti #COVID-19  travel restrictions is an opportunistic and dangerous piece of politicking which could put lives at risk.

“The travel ban is to PROTECT people, by stopping folk bringing virus from high to low prevalence areas - whether Glasgow in level 4 or England in lockdown - Cumbria on the border with Dumfriesshire has high rates.

“Exceptions to the travel ban mean people in Dumfriesshire can still make journeys to England (or other parts of Scotland) for many reasons eg work, essential shopping, care for the vulnerable, hospital and more.

“It’s important local people know about these exemptions - Oliver Mundell’s gesture politics risks misleading his constituents, causing unnecessary alarm or even encourage some to ignore the travel ban altogether - putting lives in danger

“By making public health all about the Scotland-England border, he plays to an ultra unionist base on the right of his party, for whom British nationalism trumps public health. Are Scottish Tories ranking their list candidates for next year’s election by any chance?

“We all hate the loss of freedom and economic damage of lockdowns across UK but most people living near the Border are more concerned about saving lives than obsessing about constitution and will see Oliver’s antics as immature and reckless.”