Covid inquiry

Tearful Sturgeon denies seeking Covid ‘opportunities’

Nicola Sturgeon wipes away a tear during the Covid hearing

Nicola Sturgeon shed tears today as she said she had been overwhelmed by the Covid crisis and at times wished she was not the First Minister.

Trying to maintain her composure during pointed questions about her handling of the pandemic, she denied seeing any political opportunity and instead felt a need to do the best job she could.

Giving evidence to the Covid inquiry in Edinburgh, the former Scottish government leader confirmed that she thought Boris Johnson was the wrong person to be Prime Minister.

“I don’t think I am betraying any secrets that I thought Boris Johnson was the wrong person to be Prime Minister. Full stop,” she said.

She was asked by inquiry lawyer Jamie Dawson if she was the right person for the job of First Minister and, with her voice breaking, she replied: “I was the First Minister when the pandemic struck…there is a part of me when I wished I hadn’t been.

“But I was and I wanted to be the best First Minister I could be during that period. It is for others to judge the extent to which I succeeded.”

Nicola Sturgeon tried to keep her composure

Asked about seeing a political opportunity from the circumstances of the pandemic, she said: “We were all trying our best in almost impossible circumstances.

“I didn’t see an opportunity of any description. I saw a threat, a risk, a catastrophe.”

She admitted in the early days feeling overwhelmed by the scale of what they were dealing with and an overwhelming sense of responsibility.

She said: “The idea that in those horrendous days and weeks I was an thinking of an opportunity .. it just wasn’t true.”

It was put to her that these feelings manifested in her taking a very firm a grip of management decisions such that they were made by her. Ms Sturgeon replied that she had to see the whole picture, but decisions were taken collectively by Cabinet.

“Did I take a firm grip of leadership? I hope I did.

“I had never experienced anything like this before and I had sense of responsibility that I had to lead from the front and take the attitude that the buck stops with me.

“I was ultimately accountable and responsible.”

In relation to allowing large sports events and conferences to go ahead, she told the inquiry that “on any given day there were decisions that had to be made that could have gone one way or the other. I hope the majority were the right ones.

“These were matters of judgement. We absolutely didn’t get all of them right.”

The inquiry heard yesterday that while she was first minister she was angered by then Health Secretary Humza Yousaf at a cabinet meeting in December 2021.

Mr Yousaf accused Ms Sturgeon of “ranting” at him, and said he had taken “one hell of a bullet” from her, after he unexpectedly said he could take £100m from the health budget to support businesses through another lockdown.

In today’s hearing she said she “felt he was doing a disservice to the [then] finance secretary”, Kate Forbes.

Ms Forbes had put a lot of work into trying to secure funding and Ms Sturgeon said she expected ministers to treat each other with respect.

The hearing continues

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