Briefing criticism

Return of levels as FM ‘puts television before talks’

Nicola Sturgeon at briefing

Nicola Sturgeon: left talks for TV appearance

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland will return to a tiered system of restrictions for different parts of the country when she unveils the latest easing of lockdown measures.

Ms Sturgeon will unveil her lockdown exit roadmap tomorrow which will differ from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan for an England-wide strategy (see below).

“This will be a cautious way forward because it’s really important that as we come out of this lockdown, we do so sustainably,” said Ms Sturgeon.

Customer-facing non-essential businesses are likely to remain closed for a few more weeks.

Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, David Lonsdale, said: “We’ve seen a lot of chopping and changing to the Covid rules and restrictions affecting retail over the past couple of months.

“Our hope is that the refreshed Strategic Framework delivers a more consistent and visible approach to future potential changes in Covid restrictions.

“Its heartening that the First Minister has said that so-called non-essential shops are being considered as a priority when it comes to re-opening the economy after lockdown.”

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Ms Sturgeon came under fire after it emerged she left a four nations discussion over lockdown easing in order to deliver her daily television update.

Critics accused the First Minister of putting a public appearance ahead of important talks with other UK leaders.

The meeting with representatives from Westminster, Northern Ireland and Wales – which focused on what the Prime Minister was due to announce – was still ongoing when Ms Sturgeon left in order to appear on the BBC lunchtime briefing.

She said she had left a “four nations discussion that is probably still under way” after it was set up yesterday at short notice – to be able to attend the daily briefing.

She said: “I do this briefing every day. I wasn’t in charge of the timing [of the four nations briefing].

“We pointed out that I do this briefing when a call was scheduled for quarter to 12. I joined it for as long as I could, consistent with my regular commitments. I went to it for as long as I could.

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“It wasn’t a discussion, it was a report about what the Prime Minister was about to announce. People will criticise me for whatever I do in relation to the UK Government. I am just going to do what I think is right and what discharges my responsibility.”

The Scottish Conservatives said Ms Sturgeon could have delegated the briefing to one of her ministers or it could have been led by a public health official.

A spokesman for the party said: “It will raise more than a few eyebrows that Nicola Sturgeon’s priority is the BBC briefing over working together constructively with other governments.

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