'Trying to score political points': Scottish Government insisted Covid-19 health advice 'branded' as Scottish

Health advice around the Covid-19 pandemic was ‘branded’ as Scottish by the Scottish Government in the early days of the pandemic, official minutes show.

Nicola Sturgeon arriving to attend First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.
Nicola Sturgeon arriving to attend First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.

Revealed by The Herald, the minutes from a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Room, known as SGoRR, on March 2 show ministers demanded that public health advice was branded with Scottish Government imagery.

The minutes – initially blocked from release before an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner under freedom of information law – state: “On marketing, the UKG will be issuing new material this week.

“Ministers would like to ensure that we can issue our own SG branded versions as it was important that the Scottish public understood that the advice was from SG as well as UKG.”

Opposition parties said the decision was ‘baffling’ and showed the Scottish Government wanted to gain political capital from the pandemic in the early stages.

Tory health spokesman Donald Cameron MSP told The Herald: “This shows from the very start of the pandemic the SNP Government was trying to score political points over branding when they should have been focusing on how to get to grips with Covid-19.

“Nothing has changed in nearly a year. The number of vaccines delivered dropped by around 3,000 per day on the weekend, compared to earlier in the week, whilst at the same time the SNP were singing and dancing about creating a new ‘Independence Taskforce.’

“Never mind if the SNP like it or not, this pandemic has shown how important it is for us be part of a strong United Kingdom.

“Over £8.6bn has been received by Scotland to tame the effects of the virus leading to the protection of almost a million jobs through the furlough scheme.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “In the midst of a global pandemic, the public will be baffled that SNP ministers’ immediate concern was whether the advice needed a Saltire slapped on the side.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These claims are unfounded.

“Health is devolved and it is therefore entirely appropriate for public information in Scotland to be led by the Scottish Government to ensure maximum reach and relevance for essential public health messaging.

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