Those heading up Scotland’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic have had some well-documented trouble separating their fandom for Nicola Sturgeon from their public health role. Professor Devi Sridhar, a member of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Advisory Group, has made so many appearances in Steerpike she merits her own byline. Sridhar has previously gushed that:
“I truly believe … the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whatever your opinion on politics, independence has tried to do a good job through this crisis. She has tried to brief the public, she has tried to message clearly, she has tried to listen to the scientists.
Claiming that she is ‘fortunate to live in Scotland through this moment' Professor Sridhar has also suggested an independent Scotland would have fared better against the virus and branded Unionists ‘anti-Scottish’. Any modelling for those claims Prof?
Now Professor Sir Gregor Smith, Scotland’s chief medical officer, has been accused of breaking civil service rules on impartiality by retweeting an SNP attack on the Prime Minister. The clinician shared a social media post by the nationalists’ hyper-partisan health minister Humza Yousaf which alleged that Covid isolation rules were being scrapped in England ‘to distract and deflect scrutiny over the Prime Minister’s behaviour’. Twitter warrior Yousaf added that he ‘doubt[s] they have thought it through’.
Two of the four ‘core values’ of the Civil Service Code are objectivity (‘basing your advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence’) and impartiality (‘acting solely according to the merits of the case and serving equally well Governments of different political persuasions’). The Scottish Tories’ public health spokeswoman Sue Webber says the retweet is ‘inappropriate’ for a civil servant and claims that the rules on objectivity and impartiality ‘appear to have been clearly broken’.
Unless he wants to be accused of ‘doing a Devi’, Mr Steerpike reckons Scotland’s CMO should practise some social distancing from the retweet button.