AN UNHAPPY Nicola Sturgeon has defended leaving a four-nations meeting on ending the coronavirus lockdown across the UK in order to do the daily briefing.
The First Minister left her officials in charge while she did the live BBC broadcast, then rolled her eyes in exasperation when asked why she hadn’t stayed.
The Scottish Tories accused her of putting a “TV appearance” in which little new was announced ahead of working constructively with other governments.
The meeting had been chaired by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, with the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill also taking part.
Boris Johnson is due to announce his road map for taking England out of lockdown in the Commons today, while Ms Sturgeon will set out her version for Scotland tomorrow.
She told the daily briefing: “On the route maps out of lockdown, I have just come from – I had to leave early to come and do the briefing – a four nations discussion that is probably still under way actually.”
A reporter from the Scottish Sun then put it to her: “You presumably agree that as much joined up thinking as possible is needed for this lockdown exit to be sustainable across the UK.
“I’m just wondering why you left this four-nations call to do this briefing, or at least why you’re not on it? You said it was still ongoing, I think.”
After tutting and giving an extravagant eye-roll, the First Minister replied: “Because I do this briefing every day. I wasn’t in charge of the timing.
“We pointed out that I do this briefing when a call was scheduled for quarter to twelve. I joined it for as long as I could, consistent with my regular commitments.
“Because if I hadn’t turned up here today no doubt you would have asked that. The call was only set up, I think, yesterday, and I’m represented on the call by officials when I’m not there.
“You know, I wasn’t in charge of the time, I went to it for as long as I could. It wasn’t a discussion about, as I understand it, what we were all doing.
“It was a report on what the Prime Minister was about to announce. So, you know, people will criticise me for wherever I do in relation to the UK Government, so I’m just going to do what I think is right, what discharges my responsibilities to the best of my ability.”
The opposition parties at Holyrood have long complained about Ms Sturgeon getting so much airtime through the daily briefings, and say it gives her an unfair advantage in the run up to May’s Holyrood election.
A Scottish Tory spokesman said: “It will raise more than a few eyebrows that Nicola Sturgeon’s priority is the BBC briefing over working together constructively with other governments.
“She missed a pivotal discussion in favour of a TV appearance where nothing was announced. It shows the value that the SNP leader puts on these BBC briefings in the run-up to the election in May.
“We continue to be in favour of the briefings continuing, fronted solely by public health officials who would not miss vital discussions or misuse the platform to make political points.”