Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Nicola Sturgeon’s torrid time at the Covid Inquiry

Credit: Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon’s afternoon at the Covid Inquiry was pretty brutal. She was subjected to a difficult round of questioning on whether she used the pandemic to advance the case for Scottish independence. Funnily enough, the former first minister didn’t agree with that analysis. 

In fact, her memory was that she had never thought ‘less’ about politics than during the pandemic. She became quite fixated upon the purity of her motives in dealing with Covid, to the extent that her evidence started to resemble Tony Blair’s lengthy ruminations during the Chilcot Inquiry. Her voice became unusually querulous at points, telling Jamie Dawson KC that she took it ‘very, very personally when people question the very motives because I know the motives were absolutely in good faith and for the best reasons.’ She added: ‘My motives in this were only ever about trying to do the right thing to minimise the overall harm that the virus was doing.’ 

This didn’t seem to fully convince the Inquiry chair. Heather Hallett interrupted at one point to ask why Sturgeon had claimed that there had not been a decision that the Scottish government would start campaigning for independence again – when cabinet minutes suggested that there had been. ‘The minutes read “agreed”. That means cabinet agreed, doesn’t it? So are you saying you would have overruled cabinet?’ she asked. 

There was a pause as Sturgeon tried to reconcile her morning attempts to dismiss suggestions that she was a control freak who regularly overruled cabinet with this current line of argument that the Scottish government did not start campaigning for independence during the pandemic. Then she replied: ‘If – after that – so, let me be clear what I mean, that it was clearly some comment made in that cabinet meeting that said oh maybe we should think about restarting work on independence.

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