Nicola Sturgeon branded unhelpful and confusing in damning assessment

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s former First Minister, communicated with the public “in a way that was unhelpful and confusing” during the pandemic, the UK COVID-19 inquiry has been told. Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the hearing today he had enjoyed a “constructive relationship” with his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and that their weekly briefings felt like “therapy sessions”.

However, he was less impressed with Ms Sturgeon herself, who was replaced by Humza Yousaf as SNP leader and First Minister earlier this year. Mr Hancock was by Claire Mitchell, representing Scottish Covid Bereaved at the inquiry: “What is the issue with the first minister communicating that to the people of Scotland first?”

He replied: “There were a number of moments when the First Minister of Scotland would communicate in a way that was unhelpful and confusing to the public. Sometimes, she would leave a meeting and begin communication of a decision, for instance, sooner than agreed.”

He added: “We found it much more difficult when decisions went up to first minister level, particularly with Nicola Sturgeon.

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“Because we would find that sometimes some kind of spin was put on what was essentially substantively the same decision. So it was a frustration, I’ve got to be honest about that.”

The inquiry was also shown WhatsApp messages sent by Mr Hancock in July 2020. They concerned measures imposed by the UK Government which ordered people returning from Spain to isolate for 14 days afterwards to help slow the spread of the virus.

Prior to the announcement, Mr Hancock was told Number 10 wanted to communicate the matter “ASAP”. The former health secretary replied: “Me too. It will leak anyway – and the Scots will try to get their announcement out first.”

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