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by Staff reporter
29 January 2024
Michael Gove tells Covid inquiry Nicola Sturgeon caused 'irritation in Number 10' during pandemic

Michael Gove | Alamy

Michael Gove tells Covid inquiry Nicola Sturgeon caused 'irritation in Number 10' during pandemic

The Scottish Government had a "desire for differentiation" from the UK during the pandemic, Michael Gove has told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

Gove, the minister for intergovernmental relations in the UK Government, said that the language used by Scottish officials suggests "there was a desire to pursue differentiation for the sake of advancing a political agenda".

And he said concerns over then first minister Nicola Sturgeon "jumping the gun" on announcements led to "caution" from Westminster in dealing with the Scottish Government.

But he denied the relationship between the administrations was "completely dysfunctional".

Gove, who was a Cabinet Office minister during the crisis, said: "I have great respect for the professionalism with which many Scottish Government ministers conducted themselves. I do believe their overwhelming motivation was to protect the people of Scotland from a virus.

"However, there are and were occasions when the Scottish Government was thinking politically, as we can see, and, of course, it is the case the SNP has a political mission to achieve Scotland’s independence – ie, destroy the United Kingdom – and it would be naive not to be aware that highly skilled politicians, including those at the top of the Scottish Government, might well see what they perceive to be political advantage at certain points.

"But I think it’s important to note that while that did happen at certain points, the day-to-day management of the pandemic preoccupied them as it did other ministers."

Sturgeon announced mass gatherings would be banned in Scotland after a Cobra meeting in March 2020. 

Minutes from the meeting indicate that those present agreed not to make any such announcements, pending further talks.

Sturgeon's announcement was "unwise" and "an error" on her part, Gove said, and caused "irritation in Number 10".

Gove said "a number of people within government were disappointed" and there was a sense that there should be "care and caution" in how they "worked with the first minister".

The inquiry continues.

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