THE Earl and Countess of Strathearn have ignored a cross-Border travel ban, arriving in Edinburgh this morning on their festive royal train tour of the country.

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.

They were welcomed to the city by deputy lord lieutenant Sandra Cumming.

It’s the first stop on their 1250-mile, three-day tour of England, Scotland and Wales, which will see them thank communities, outstanding individuals and key workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, it is now an offence to travel over the Border between Scotland and England for non-essential purposes.

It's also an offence to travel between level three or level four local authorities. 

Edinburgh is currently in level three.

People who violate the rules could be fined £60 unless a “reasonable excuse” such as caring responsibilities, hospital appointments or exercise.

Introducing the ban, last month, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said: “These travel restrictions – nobody likes them, I don’t like them – but they are vital in helping us minimise these risks.

“They are vital in helping us avoid having the whole country in the same level or restrictions.

“It is these travel restrictions that mean that even although the central belt has to be in level 4, we can avoid the Highlands or Edinburgh or parts of the country with lower prevalence being in level 4 too.”

One exemption in the rules allows people to “travel for work, or provide voluntary or charitable services", but only "where that cannot be done from your home”.

The royals' Edinburgh stop over was criticised on social media.

Haematologist Dr Katrina Farrell tweeted: "I absolutely do not understand why the #RoyalTrainTour is being allowed in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is in tier 3. No non essential travel into or out of region."

Kirsty Grant said: "I can’t leave East Lothian to visit my mum in Edinburgh because I am following current guidance & laws to keep people safe! Yet Kate and William just got off a train and now they’re away visiting schools and hospitals."

Alex Ball agreed: "One must not travel into or out of level 3 and 4 local authority areas except for essential reasons. One assumes that this also applies to attention-seeking celebrities."

Asked about the row at the Scottish Government's daily coronavirus briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said the government had reminded the Royal household of the restrictions in advance of the trip. 

She said: “The Royal visit is a matter for the Royal household and the arrangements around it, and any questions about those arrangements, should be directed to the Royal household.

“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.

“Any more questions on that should be directed to the Royal household.”

A Royal source told The Herald: "Travelling across the border is permitted for work purposes.

"The Duke and Duchess [of Cambridge] travelled to Scotland to carry out their work, thanking frontline workers who have done so much for the country throughout the pandemic.

"The visits were planned in consultation with the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments."

Earlier this year, there was a row when Prince Charles managed to get a test for coronavirus within hours of showing “relatively mild symptoms” despite strict NHS guidelines at the time saying they should only be given to patients admitted to hospital.

The future king arrived in his Birkhall home in Scotland on Sunday, March 22.

He and Camilla were two of just 19 tests carried out by NHS Grampian on the Monday. He received the positive result on Tuesday. Camilla’s test came back negative.

A spokesman for Clarence House made clear to The National that the prince did not display coronavirus symptoms until he was in Scotland.

The criteria used by NHS Grampian at the time – released to us under freedom of information – was in line with the Health Protection Scotland guidance, which stated that the only patients who should be tested were those requiring hospital admission, who have either clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia, or acute respiratory distress syndrome or influenza-like illness.

And even those with the influenza-like illness must also have had a fever greater than 37.8°C and at least a “persistent cough (with or without sputum)” or “hoarseness, nasal discharge or congestion, shortness of breath, sore throat, wheezing, sneezing”.

At the time Charles was tested the then chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood, said she’d established from talking to NHS Grampian that “he was tested for clinical reasons”.

Calderwood defended the decision during an interview with the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

She said: “I have spoken to the team in Grampian who were looking after the individual.

“My understanding is there were very good reasons for that person and his wife to be tested, and obviously I wouldn’t be able to disclose anything else that I know because of patient confidentiality.”

But Clarence House has repeatedly said his symptoms were only mild.