A fresh border row erupted yesterday after Nicola Sturgeon said she would 'not shy away' from forcing visitors coming up from England to self-quarantine if any outbreak there were not 'properly managed'.
In a wide-ranging interview on the BBC, the First Minister claimed support for independence was rising because Scots could see the SNP was 'getting on with the job of autonomous decision making'.
And she sparked fury after insisting she would not hesitate to force English visitors to self-isolate if she thought it would be good for Scotland's health.
It follows a week that saw nationalist activists at the A1 Border telling 'the English' to stay away.
Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC she would 'not shy away' from forcing visitors coming up from England to self-quarantine if any outbreak there were not 'properly managed'
On Saturday, protesters on a bridge on the M74 near Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, waved blue-and-white as well as black Saltires.
Ms Sturgeon raised the quarantine issue yesterday when she appeared on the Andrew Marr Show.
She has repeatedly refused to rule out forcing those crossing the Border into Scotland to self-isolate on their arrival – prompting a political and business backlash.
Ms Sturgeon, who claimed such a move would not be political, said yesterday she was having a 'very close look at making sure that we are not seeing the virus come in from other parts of the UK'.
She said: 'I will take decisions the best I can to protect the health of Scotland and to do that absolutely from a public health perspective.
'These are not decisions I will take lightly but they're equally not decisions I will shy away from. We need to be sure that any outbreaks in England have been properly managed, just as England will want to be sure any outbreaks in Scotland are being properly managed.'
Ms Sturgeon has expressed concerns over the approach to tackling Covid-19 in England, and has claimed the prevalence of the virus is five times lower in Scotland – a claim that is disputed.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove hit out at Miss Sturgeon's threat of 'erecting a hard Border' between Scotland and England.
He told Times Radio: 'I think it would be difficult to have a situation where people who live and work on either side of the Scotland-England Border were suddenly to find their freedom of movement curtailed. I don't think the idea of erecting a hard Border between Scotland and England is in any way a good thing.'
The protest on the M74, like the earlier A1 Border gathering, was roundly condemned as trying to intimidate drivers. Critics said the 'separatist protest' was 'in danger of distracting motorists' and urged witnesses to call the police.
Michael Gove hit out at Miss Sturgeon's threat of 'erecting a hard Border' between Scotland and England
The SNP last night said that the protest had not been organised by the party.
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: 'Officers attended a short time later and the group were no longer on scene.'
Miss Sturgeon also came under fire yesterday after claiming that not talking about independence had led to a rise in support for it during the pandemic.
A poll last week reported that 54 per cent of Scots currently back separation from the UK.
Miss Sturgeon claimed: 'At a time when I and the SNP have not been talking about independence all the time but getting on with the job of autonomous decision making and trying to take the right decisions to get the country through a crisis, support for independence appears to have increased.'
The row comes as Professor Rowland Kao, a mathematical biologist at Edinburgh University, warned the Scottish Government not to 'pat itself on the back' too much.
He said: 'The virus took off in London long before anywhere in Scotland and that's going to make the biggest difference.
'If lockdown occurs at the same time but you're at an earlier stage in the epidemic you're definitely going to have an advantage.'
Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman, said Miss Sturgeon 'continues to discuss the possibility of quarantining the rest of the UK. The First Minister is most definitely contributing to constitutional game playing in deed if not in word'.