Sturgeon's Covid briefings 'unhelpful and confusing', says Hancock

The former UK health secretary criticised the then-first minister's communication skills.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid briefings during the pandemic were “unhelpful and confusing”, according to former UK health secretary Matt Hancock.

Speaking at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry on Friday, the MP accused the former first minister of “spin” on decisions agreed by governments throughout the UK during lockdown.

He claimed Sturgeon would announce decisions sooner than she had agreed to.

The inquiry was shown Hancock’s WhatsApp messages from July 2020 regarding communications around travel from Spain and quarantine.

When told that No 10 wanted to communicate the matter “ASAP”, Hancock replied: “Me too. It will leak anyway – and the Scots will try to get their announcement out first.”

He was asked by a representative of the Scottish Covid bereaved: “What is the issue with the First Minister communicating that to the people of Scotland first?”

Hancock said: “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.

“And 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.

“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.”

Sturgeon was well-known throughout the pandemic for her daily Covid briefings in which she would update the public on the spread of the virus as well as lockdown measures.

The UK Government also held daily coronavirus briefings.

Hancock was the UK health secretary during lockdown before resigning in June 2021 after footage emerged of him kissing aide Gina Coladangelo while both were married.

On Friday, he admitted that his “transgression” could have impacted the public’s confidence in Covid rules.

He was a Tory MP until November 2022 when he had the whip suspended after announcing he would be appearing on I’m a Celebrity… Get Met Out of Here!

‘Not a scrap of evidence for Matt Hancock’s claims’

Sturgeon refuted the claims by the former health secretary.

A spokesperson said: “There is not a scrap of evidence for Matt Hancock’s claims.

“He should be taking responsibility for his own decisions – as Nicola will do when she gives evidence to the Inquiry early next year – rather than seeking to blame others.

“Nicola communicated openly and frankly with the people of Scotland on a daily basis.

“It was her duty in the grave situation we faced to take and communicate clearly the decisions necessary to protect the country as far as possible. She was accountable to the Scottish people in discharging that duty, not to Matt Hancock.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are co-operating fully with the UK Covid-19 Inquiry and the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry and will follow all of the evidence given closely. We support both independent Inquiries in their work to explore the handling of the pandemic and to identify the vital lessons we all need to learn.

“It would not be appropriate to comment on detailed evidence presented to either Inquiry at this stage.”

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