A grieving politician has demanded answers from the Scottish Secretary on the actions of the Prime Minister’s chief adviser.
Council leader Elaine Murray recently suffered the loss of her mother and coronavirus lockdown restrictions meant relatives living in England chose not to attend her funeral.
But a furious Dr Murray was “appalled” to learn over the weekend that Dominic Cummings had driven 260 miles to his parents’ house when the guidelines urged against all but essential travel.
In a letter to Scottish Secretary and Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack, she wrote: “Do you understand the anger felt by so many of your constituents who have obeyed the regulations despite personal distress?”
Mr Jack responded that he understood that people were angry and frustrated and that it was up to individuals to decide if Mr Cummings’ actions were justified.
In March, Mr Cummings drove from London to his parents’ farm near Durham with his four-year-old son and his wife who was showing symptoms of Covid-19.
He claimed on Monday this was for childcare reasons and he had not broken lockdown guidelines urging people to stay at home because there was some leeway in “extreme” circumstances.
Amid calls for Mr Cummings to resign, Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed his chief adviser, saying he had “followed the instincts of every father and every parent”.
But many people across the country have been infuriated by the PM’s stance and on Tuesday Tory MP Douglas Ross quit his role working for Mr Jack as Under Secretary of State for Scotland in protest.
In her letter to Mr Jack, sent on Tuesday, Dr Murray praised Mr Ross for “this display of principle”.
She insisted it was “clear” Mr Cummings had broken the law and wrote: “I am therefore appalled that the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet are condoning Dominic Cummings’ flouting of the legislation.”
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She suggested it was one rule for her constituents, who have been following the guidelines, and one for Mr Cummnings.
Dr Murray, a former Labour MSP, revealed that her mother had been a resident at Lochduhar Care Home in Dumfries and had recently died, although she was not a Covid-19 victim.
She added: “My sister and one of my nieces live in London and my other niece lives in Sheffield. Due to lockdown regulations their last words to our mum were by videoconference.
“My sister’s ‘instinct’ was to travel to Dumfries to see her dying mother and subsequently to attend her funeral but she obeyed the regulations and stayed at home.
“Even though attending a funeral is one of the exceptions, she didn’t take the risk of bringing the virus from London to Dumfries.
“She and my nieces attended mum’s funeral by video link. Our three children did attend but due to the lockdown regulations they couldn’t even have a cup of tea with us in our garden afterwards. There were no hugs of comfort either.”
She urged Mr Jack not to condone the “utterly selfish behaviour” of Mr Cummings.
Mr Jack said: “I understand the anger and frustration many feel about this situation because this is a time when all the efforts and focus of the UK Government should be on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
“Mr Cummings has given an explanation of his actions and people will make up their own minds on whether they believe they were justified.
“I will continue to work to support the UK Government’s response to this public health crisis and I hope we can return to more normal lives as soon as possible.”
Up to 40 Tory MPs have now called for Mr Cummings to go, with Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson sharing that view.
He said: “My personal opinion is that Mr Cummings’ position has become untenable and he should step down to allow us to regain the focus on dealing with this crisis. We have come too far together over the last two months and with such great personal sacrifice on the part of millions of ordinary people for anything other to be the case.”