ANDY Burnham has compared independence with this year's ban on non-essential travel between Scotland and Greater Manchester.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester made the comments at a meeting of Labour Friends of Scotland held last night at Labour's annual conference in Brighton.

"It was the first real taste of what an independent Scotland would feel like," he said discussing the travel ban.

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"We’ve got to talk about the north of England and Scotland working together ... Nationalism of any kind is never a force for good in the long-run in politics. I just believe that, you know, it's about dividing people it's about saying some are better than others.

Julie Hepburn, a senior SNP activist and former candidate for deputy party leader, hit back after Burnham's comments were reported on Twitter.

She wrote: "OK. Continue to wilfully misunderstand and misrepresent progressive movements like our campaign for independence in Scotland – a cause that values equality, free education, public services and inclusive citizenship – that welcomes immigration."

Burham's comments suggest that independence would prevent travel to and from England to Scotland. However, a Common Travel Area was established in 1923 following Irish independence which allowed free movement of people across the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands.

The Common Travel Area remains in place post Brexit and an independent Scotland would expect to be included in it.

Nicola Sturgeon announced a ban on non-essential travel in and out of Scotland from Greater Manchester in June because of high rates of the coronavirus in that part of the north of England.

It followed an earlier ban on travel between Scotland and other parts of the north of England – Bedford, Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen – which was announced by the First Minister in May after high rates of the highly infectious Delta variant were found in these towns.

But Burnham was furious when the travel ban was announced between Scotland and Greater Manchester which he said he had not been consulted on.

He accused the First Minister of "hypocrisy" for imposing the ban without any consultation with him and threatened to take the Scottish Government to court on behalf of businesses and individuals affected.

He also pointed out that parts of Scotland had higher Covid rates than Manchester.

The ban came into force on June 21 and was lifted on June 29.

The First Minister said she was "a bit confused" over the mayor's stance, and suggested his statements were "part of some position in a Labour leadership contest of the future".

Announcing the end of the ban health secretary Humza Yousaf said: "Nobody wants travel restrictions in place for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

"Placing restrictions on travel between Scotland and parts of north-west England was only taken after extremely careful consideration and analysis of data to help prevent the spread of variants of concern.

"Following a careful review of the data we have decided to ease travel arrangements between Scotland and Manchester, Salford and Bolton.

"However, the situation regarding Blackburn and Darwen will need to be closely monitored and will be reviewed again in a week's time."

Travel bans were imposed earlier in the pandemic both between parts of Scotland and between Scotland and the other three UK nations in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

Scientists had previously found that travel was one of the main ways in which the virus was carried into different areas.

The SNP MSP Michelle Thomson hit out at Burnham's comments.

“It seems Andy Burnham just can’t let go of his hissy fit," she said.

“To try to compare the immigration policies of a normal independent country to the Government’s management of public safety in the middle of a global pandemic is quite frankly absurd,” said SNP MSP Michelle Thomson.

“Over the last 18 months, governments around the world have introduced travel restrictions in various forms – restrictions deemed necessary after extremely careful consideration to control the virus and its variants. Nobody has wanted them but, thankfully, the majority of the people across Scotland have understood their necessity.

“The SNP have been clear that an independent Scotland should have a close relationship with the rest of the UK – operating, economically and socially, on the basis of equality. Achieving this will be in the interests of everyone.”