Readers' Letters: Sturgeon’s evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry has been polarised

Predictably the reaction to Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry has been polarised. However, it is possible to accept both that she did her very best and that there were shortcomings in her leadership.

The evidence shows that she stepped up and worked very hard throughout the pandemic, taking personal responsibility, and paying attention to detail. When she says she wishes the pandemic had not happened on her shift and that her objective was to be the best First Minister she could be, I, for one, believe her.

However, aspects of her character, her working style and her political motivation worked against her.

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Her dominant personality combined with her tendency to form teams of like-minded people may well have resulted in groupthink.

Former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry hearing at the Edinburgh International Conference CentreFormer Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry hearing at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry hearing at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre

The result of attention to detail combined with ineffective delegation is getting bogged down in minutiae and ultimately exhaustion.

When your political ambition is to show that government in Scotland can do better than that of Westminster, it must be impossible not to manage issues and present matters in that context.

There are two lessons that can be taken from this evidence.

Firstly, the cult of personality is not good; a more rounded, consensual leader who delegates well would be more effective.

Secondly, few are sufficiently self-aware to see their own weaknesses; feedback needs to be sought and offered. A wise leader should have ‘critical friends’ close to them who can give honest feedback, suggesting modifications to the leader’s working style to help them to be more effective and, ultimately, to make better decisions.

​George Rennie, Inverness

Farcical inquiry

What have we learned from these Enquiries that will assist our leaders in legislating when the next Pandemic hits?


This latest one in Scotland has been allowed to become a political punch up with opposition bullies shouting down those who guided Scotland through a very nasty time and who succeeded in suppressing the worst of what the virus could have done.

They made hard decisions that caused unhappiness but were necessary.

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I remember listening to Nicola Sturgeon as she explained her decisions and the reasons for them in a way that was not available to the rest of the UK. Their main speaker was Boris Johnson who seemed to have little idea of why he was there and usually handed his remit to others..

It must have been a very upsetting time for Holyrood. Our leading politicians followed the rules they had laid down. Boris Johnson, it now appears, did not.

Now instead of getting together to work out what we should do in the next pandemic, the opposition are encouraged to bully and shout at those who had to face the problems in the last one.

This is not an enquiry. It is a costly waste of taxpayer's money.

Elizabeth Scott, Edinburgh

Political motivations

One of the more illuminating revelations from the Covid Inquiry was in an email from John Swinney’s office to Nicola Sturgeon in 2020, referring to the inclusion of Spain in a list of countries to which travel restrictions were applied: ‘It won’t matter how much ministers might justify it on health grounds, the Spanish government will conclude it is entirely political. They won’t forget. There is a real possibility they will never approve EU membership for an independent Scotland as a result’.

This is clear evidence of political purposes being a major consideration for the Sturgeon regime during the pandemic, especially when, on 20 July 2020, it lifted quarantine restrictions for people arriving from Spain.

Yet Spain’s favour for Scotland could not be assumed. How likely was the Spanish government to forget that, in autumn 2017, SNP MPs, MSPs and members had travelled to Catalonia to campaign for the break up of the Spanish state, and that there had been pro-Catalonian independence demonstrations in Scotland at that time?

It is very telling that Mr Swinney was particularly concerned, in the depths of the pandemic, about the pipe dream of a secessionist Scotland applying to the EU.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Planning silence

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There are more ways than one of silencing opposition. The new Planning Framework which has changed due to the SNP Greens Alliance now only fully protects the two National Parks and National Scenic Areas from wind farms.

Most wind farm applications go to the Energy Consents Unit as they are too large to be dealt with by the Department of Planning and Environmental Appeals. The Energy Consents Unit legislation goes back to 1989 and was designed for power stations so it is not people friendly.

For example, there is no statutory requirement to publish representations on the Energy Consents Unit Portal. They say they will endeavour to publish objections, but it may take three months. It is not easy for the general public to go to a Government website and see no other objections and seem to be the first to object.

With eighteen years of experience of protecting Midlothian countryside, I have had the confidence to object to Torfichen wind farm application for 18 turbines up to 180 metres tall near Gladhouse Reservoir. A previous application for 9 turbines 102 metres high the other side of the reservoir was dismissed by a Reporter in 2015.

For the reasons set out above, I find that the combination of height, number and layout results in a wind farm design that is out of scale with the receiving landscape. I consider that this results in a visually unfortunate proposal which would be perceived by many people.

This wind farm is also on moorland above a reservoir which is part of the Meggat scheme which serves Edinburgh and the Lothians. Scottish Water in their comments warn against risk to drinking water.

How many more applications are there in the system with this new free for all planning system with people like me feeling completely helpless?

Celia Hobbs, Penicuik

Protect innocents

Now that the Horizon Post Office IT scandal is under scrutiny, isn't it about time to focus on another outrage against innocents? Namely the Rochdale child abuse scandal.

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Most of the victims of this horrifying crime have yet to see justice done, with most of the original grooming gangs still at large (96 men have been identified as a real risk to children) and a serious threat to the communities they live in.

It's all very well to hold those who were in authority accountable, but what about all those sex offenders who are still being allowed to roam free?

Stephen McCarthy, Glasgow

Cost to energy

The Opinion article by Paul Wilson ‘demonstrates the swing to the far right if farmer protests are ignored’ but the elephant in the room of Scottish politics will arise from the unit cost of energy following a Holyrood ban on domestic gas.

The projected unit costs in April are 6p/unit for gas but 24p/unit for electricity. As 80 per cent of dual fuel consumer energy is derived from gas then an SNP ban will increase household bills from around £1,400 (excluding standing charges) to around £4,000 a year leading to a massive increase in fuel poverty.

In addition, the concern from the Renewable Sector over massive rises in costs led to Westminster increasing the strike price of off- shore wind energy from £41/MWhour to £73/MWhour yet not a single SNP/Green Minister has indicated the impact on the £33 cost to replace gas boilers. Why the silence over such a key policy from the Scottish Government?

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas

Fishing ban

The forthcoming ban on the industrial fishing of sandeels in Scottish and Northern English waters is welcome and long overdue. It's ridiculous that this type of fishing by European fleets has been allowed to continue for so long, putting the futures of seabirds and mammals in danger just to provide animal feed and fertiliser. Our seabirds have enough to contend with having been decimated by Avian Flu without their fishing grounds being pillaged.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirling

Free press?

I read Martin O’Gorman’s criticism of those who complain about anti-SNP newspaper headlines with a degree of intrigue (Letters 30th January). What really raised my eyebrows was his assertion that such headlines are simply the sign of a free press in action in a democratic society.

Was that the same free press which sabotaged the findings of the Leveson Inquiry and persuaded parliament not to implement what was for them its more unfavourable parts? Was that the same free press which described the judiciary as “enemies of the people” because judges dared to rule that the government had acted illegally?

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Perhaps Mr. O’Gorman, with his intimate knowledge of how the press works, can explain to me why it is that those newspapers most opposed to separation choose to run run separate editions in Scotland?

If this is for the purpose of covering news within the constituent parts of the union, then why are there not similar editions published in Wales in Northern Ireland?

Robert Menzies, Falkirk

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