Nicola Sturgeon admits Covid mistakes ‘will stay with me forever’, as SNP leader announces £100m winter fund

Adam Forrest
·3-min read
Nicola Sturgeon (Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon (Getty Images)

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has admitted to mistakes over the treatment of Scotland’s care homes that will “stay with me forever” as she sought to defend her handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The SNP leader has been criticised for the Scottish government’s decision to transfer Covid patients from hospitals into care homes between March and May.

“I wouldn’t claim to be proud to be any aspect of coronavirus – it’s been a tragedy. I’ve never tried to pretend that mistakes haven’t been made,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Asked if she had regrets over the mistakes made regarding care homes, the first minister said: “Absolutely, in particular over care homes. That will stay with me forever. We took decisions around care homes with the intention of protecting people in care homes as much as possible.”

Ms Sturgeon attacked the BBC over its use of coronavirus death statistics, after The Andrew Marr Show cited figures showing there were 50.5 deaths per million in Scotland in the week to 15 November, compared to 40.6 deaths per million in England.

The SNP leader told Today that the BBC had been “pulling a few weeks [of figures] out of nine-month pandemic”, and claimed death statistics would have to be looked at over the course of the crisis.

Asked if she bore some responsibility for ongoing health inequalities in Scotland, Ms Sturgeon accepted she did – but added: “We have different demographics in Scotland, we’ve got an older population and there are health inequalities that go back generations, way before the SNP was in office.”

It comes as Sturgeon is set to announce a £100m winter fund to help low-income households in Scotland through the next few months of the pandemic – including a direct £100 payment for families with children receiving free school meals.

The SNP leader was also questioned about her plans for a second independence referendum on Monday morning. “I want to see it in the early part of the next term of the Scottish parliament rather than the later part,” she told Sky News – declining to rule out a possible vote in autumn 2021.

“I’m not ruling anything out, I’m not ruling anything in,” she said. “I’m clear that I think for all the reasons I’ve set out, the sooner Scotland can have the powers of independence so we chart our own future, the better it will be for all of us.”

Asked if the Scottish government could organise its own referendum, without consent from Westminster, and take the matter to the Supreme Court, she said: “I’ve never ruled out having a situation where this question, which has never been determined in courts, of does the Scottish parliament have the power to have a referendum regardless of what Westminster says.”

Ms Sturgeon opened the SNP’s annual conference on Sunday by telling members she has “never been so certain” Scotland will achieve independence, boasting the nation was “the cusp of making history.”

Ms Sturgeon is expected to use her main SNP conference speech later on Monday to say problems with poverty and inequality should be considered “inevitable or insoluble”.

Sturgeon will pledge to rebuild Scotland “with kindness, compassion, fairness, equality and enterprise at its heart – and not one made in the image of Boris Johnson and his band of Brexiteers”.

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