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'Frustrating' Nicola Sturgeon put political angle on Covid rules, Matt Hancock claims

Matt Hancock said he was 'frustrated' by Nicola Sturgeon putting a 'political angle' on Scottish decisions during the pandemic <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Matt Hancock said he was 'frustrated' by Nicola Sturgeon putting a 'political angle' on Scottish decisions during the pandemic (Image: PA)

FORMER health secretary Matt Hancock has accused Nicola Sturgeon of putting a “political angle” on different restrictions used in Scotland during the Covid pandemic.

At the UK Covid-19 public inquiry, Hancock was asked about comments he had made in his witness statement that referenced “difficulties” the UK Government had encountered with the Scottish Government taking different decisions on rules during the crisis.

Clarifying his point, he insisted that while he worked well with the Scottish Government at ministerial level, when decisions went up to a first minister level he felt they were given a “political angle” which he found “frustrating”.

He told the inquiry: “We worked very well together at health minister, health secretary level and there’s evidence of that in the WhatsApps and I know that at CMO level they worked very well together.

“The challenge was when decisions went up from our level to first minister and prime minister level, there would sometimes be agreement on what to do but someone would go ahead and announce it beforehand causing confusion or [there was] a decision to do something that was substantially the same but presentationally different.

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“My starting point was we live on an island or a set of islands and the virus does not recognise administrative boundaries […] and it is necessary to take decisions across the whole island that are consistent. And there were also obviously a communications challenge with the public.

“I found it unfortunate that sometimes when decisions went up, in particular in Scotland, in particular at first minister level, there would then be a political angle or presentational angle put on the same science. It was frustrating.”

Last year, Hancock claimed Sturgeon forced the UK Government into a U-turn over face masks in schools in his book.

Hancock claimed Tory ministers were "blindsided" by the then-FM's announcement in August 2020 and decided to U-turn in order to avoid "a big spat with the Scots".

In Pandemic Diaries: The inside story of Britain’s battle against Covid, Hancock also suggested Sturgeon would "build a Trump-style wall" between Scotland and the rest of the UK if she could.

Elsewhere at the inquiry on Thursday, Hancock accused Dominic Cummings of creating a “culture of fear” in Government that undermined the pandemic response as he defended his record in office.

He painted Boris Johnson’s ex-chief adviser as a “malign actor” who subjected Department of Health and Social Care staff to abuse as they grappled with the emergence of Covid-19.

Hancock rejected claims he lied to colleagues about ways in which the pandemic was being dealt with, describing these as “false allegations”.