The jaunt was condemned as ‘highly irresponsible’ and lacking in ’empathy’ about sacrifices made by the general public’, by fuming politicians.
At the start of December, Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, travelled to Edinburgh as part of a three-day tour of England, Scotland and Wales, to thank communities and key workers for their role in the pandemic.
On November 20 it became an offence to travel over the border for non-essential purposes, and to travel between level three or level four local authorities in Scotland.
One exemption allowed “travel for work, or provide voluntary or charitable services”, but only “where that cannot be done from your home”.
After criticism, the palace said the visits had been “planned in consultation with the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments.”
At the time, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she made the Royal Household aware “of the restrictions in place in Scotland so that could inform both the decision and the planning of the visit.”
However, emails released under freedom of information legislation, show that the royals ultimately disregarded the pleas of senior civil servants to postpone.
On November 12, John Somers, who is Nicola Sturgeon’s principal private secretary, told the Royals: “You’ll know that we are currently asking people living in Scotland to avoid unnecessary travel from local authority to local authority and to keep journeys within the area they live to an absolute minimum.
“We review our guidance regularly though as the First Minister regularly says in her daily briefings it is not possible to offer a definite position ahead of time given the variables and unknowns presented by the pandemic.
“From a personal point of view I think the [Royal train tour] is one which would will mean a lot to many people living throughout the country.
“My anxiety though is the practical aspects of it and how presentationally it may be difficult if travel restrictions are in place.
“I think my view is that at the moment the chances of the tour having to be postponed are potentially quite high.”
On November 19, James Hynd, the Scottish Government’s head of cabinet, parliament and governance, told the royals: “The Scottish Government is likely to bring forward statutory restrictions on non-essential travel both within Scotland and also into and out of Scotland.
“These rules will come into force from 6pm tomorrow (Friday, November 20). They will have no set termination point but will be reviewed regularly.
“This is obviously likely to have a major impact on the plans you are working on I am afraid.”
Nevertheless, two weeks later, the future king and queen were in the capital.
Edinburgh North and Leith MP Deidre Brock said it was “irresponsible to travel to eight different locations over three days”.
She added: “People are having to stay in their houses, we can’t meet family or friends, we can’t pay proper respects at funerals, we can’t even hug our loved ones when they’re going through hard times.
“I would have hoped that the Royal Family would have had enough empathy to respect what people are going through rather than looking for publicity.
“The Scottish Government pointed out the travel ban twice and the Welsh Government made clear it wasn’t happy.
“This ‘work trip’ wasn’t essential work, it wasn’t for any of the exemptions laid out in the rules and the guidance.
“There are plenty of exemptions from supporting vulnerable folk to animal welfare but none of them cover a 1250-mile trip round eight different sites making connections between people who would otherwise not be connected.”
Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard said: “It’s quite clear that the Scottish Government did everything it could to try and dissuade the palace from making this trip.
“On the face of it their decision to ignore this advice and to engage in the public event anyway seems highly irresponsible.”