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by Staff reporter
01 December 2023
Nicola Sturgeon would 'spin' UK Covid decisions, Matt Hancock tells inquiry

Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock leaves the UK Covid-19 Inquiry | Alamy

Nicola Sturgeon would 'spin' UK Covid decisions, Matt Hancock tells inquiry

"Unhelpful" Nicola Sturgeon would "spin" UK-wide pandemic announcements and create confusion, Matt Hancock has told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry. 

In his second day of evidence, the former UK health secretary, who lost his job after breaking social distancing rules in an affair with an aide, singled Sturgeon out for criticism and said there was a "frustration" about how developments were handled. 

He said Sturgeon, who gave pandemic updates in frequent live broadcasts, would start to break the news about decisions affecting the whole of the UK earlier than had been agreed. 

The comments came after WhatsApp messages sent by Hancock in summer 2020 were shown to the inquiry. 

Sent in July of that year, the notes were about UK Government-imposed measures for people returning from Spain, who were to isolate for 14 days to limit the spread of Covid. 

Told that Downing Street wanted to share the news "asap", Hancock said: "Me too. It will leak anyway - and the Scots will try to get their announcement out first." 

He told the inquiry: "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. 

"Sometimes [she] would leave a meeting and begin communication of a decision, for instance, sooner than agreed." 

On working with devolved governments, Hancock said: "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." 

However, the independent MP said his relationship with health secretaries in devolved administrations, including Scotland's Jeane Freeman, was "constructive" and meetings between them were like "therapy sessions". 

The inquiry continues.

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