Scotland’s chief medical officer will not feature in future coronavirus media briefings after it emerged she twice visited her second home.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she did not condone anyone breaking the guidance on preventing the spread of the virus, but added it would be “damaging not to have the ongoing advice and expertise” of Dr Catherine Calderwood as chief medical officer.
Dr Calderwood apologised after going against her own advice to stay at home and has been issued with a police warning over her conduct.
The 51-year-old will remain in her post and continue advising the Scottish Government, but the current advertising campaign which features Dr Calderwood will now be revised.
In a statement after Sunday’s briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am acutely aware of the importance of public trust in the advice the Government is giving to stay at home in order to save lives and protect our NHS.
“To maintain that trust we will be revising our public information campaign and the chief medical officer will be withdrawing from media briefings for the foreseeable future.
Dr Calderwood told a briefing at the Scottish Government headquarters in Edinburgh on Sunday she had also visited the home in Fife last weekend with her husband.
She apologised after photos of herself and her family near a coastal retreat in Earlsferry were published in a newspaper.
Just days earlier, the 51-year-old tweeted a photo of her family at their main residence in Edinburgh as they clapped for the front-line NHS staff working to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Sturgeon said she did not know about Dr Calderwood’s visits to her second home, a drive of more than an hour from Edinburgh, until Sunday night.
The First Minister said: “The chief medical officer made a mistake in travelling away from her home. Whatever her reasons for doing so, it was wrong and she knows that.
“All of us, including me, will make mistakes in these unprecedented times we are living in. When we do we must be candid about it and learn from it.”
She said Dr Calderwood is learning from her error and has offered to do whatever is in the interests of the country, adding: “In my view, that would not be her resignation.”
“I have made a mistake, I have let people down, I’ve let the public in Scotland down, I’ve let my NHS colleagues down, and I apologise unreservedly for that.” – Dr Catherine Calderwood
Dr Calderwood told the briefing: “I did not follow the advice I’m giving to others and I’m truly sorry for that. What I did was wrong, I’m very sorry. It will not happen again.
“I know how important the advice is that I have issued. I do not want my mistake to distract from that. This was a mistake, human error and there are no excuses.
“I can’t justify being away from my own home in Edinburgh and there are no reasons I could give you that would justify that.
“I have made a mistake, I have let people down, I’ve let the public in Scotland down, I’ve let my NHS colleagues down, and I apologise unreservedly for that.”
Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said officers had visited Dr Calderwood and issued a warning about her conduct.
He said in a statement: “Earlier today, local officers visited Dr Catherine Calderwood and spoke to her about her actions, reiterated crucial advice and issued a warning about her future conduct, all of which she accepted.
“The legal instructions on not leaving your home without a reasonable excuse apply to everyone. Social distancing is the key intervention to curtail the spread of coronavirus and it is essential that the instructions are followed to protect each other, take strain from the NHS and save lives.
“Individuals must not make personal exemptions bespoke to their own circumstances.”
Dr Calderwood apologised for taking up police time and said she did not want to make the job of officers harder.
She added: “I have a job to do as chief medical officer to provide advice to ministers on the path of this virus and to support the medical profession as they work night and day to save lives.
“Having spoken with the First Minister this morning my intention is to continue to focus on my job.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Greens all questioned whether Dr Calderwood’s position remained tenable.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and Wendy Chamberlain, the MSP and MP respectively for the area where Dr Calderwood has her second home, said in a joint statement: “If we are going to get through this pandemic we need medical leaders who everyone can follow. It is with great regret that we say that the chief medical officer will need to go.”
This view was echoed by Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, who also called for Dr Calderwood to stand down. Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said her position was “untenable”, and the Scottish Greens said she can “no longer credibly front” the public health campaign.
Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said there is no doubt Dr Calderwood’s visit – which the Scottish Government confirmed was an overnight stay to “check on a family home” – was “ill-advised”.
Mr Russell added: “I’m saying to everybody… do not go out except in the very exceptional circumstances that are listed, think about these things and remember by breaking them you are risking lives.”
Last month, the Scottish Government issued a travel warning criticising the “irresponsible behaviour” of people with second homes and campervans travelling to the Highlands in a bid to isolate.
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