John Swinney defends Nicola Sturgeon over missing Covid briefings

The Deputy First Minister has defended claims that Nicola Sturgeon is missing daily coronavirus briefings due to the ongoing inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of allegations against Alex Salmond

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, deputy first minister John Swinney said that despite leading just one of last week’s daily briefings, the first minister was “right across” the government's handling of the pandemic.

Both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Swinney potentially face a vote of no confidence put forward by the Scottish Conservatives over the government’s alleged handling of the allegations of sexual harassment.

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Mr Swinney pointed to last week, saying Ms Sturgeon had done Tuesday’s briefing to MSPs in Parliament, gave the coronavirus update at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday and held the daily briefing on Friday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appears at a Covid briefing. Picture: Flickr/Scottish Government
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appears at a Covid briefing. Picture: Flickr/Scottish Government

On Wednesday, she appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints to give evidence.

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He said: “Marvellous as the First Minister is, she can't be in two places at once and she was in front of a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

"This coming week she'll give an update tomorrow in Parliament, she’ll be at the Covid committee, the parliamentary committee – we all attend parliamentary committees when requested – on Wednesday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, at Holyrood in Edinburgh, examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond.

"She’ll do the update at First Minister's question time on Thursday and she'll be here during the briefing on Friday. So I think the First Minister is right across all of this.”

Mr Swinney added: “In terms of progress on the pandemic, I talked about the fact that at every level the situation is improving. We've got case numbers falling, positivity is much lower than it was, hospitals are getting a less critical situation than they were in, and the vaccination programme is working and very successful.

"So, I think, in all respects, we are making huge progress on the suppression of Covid, and the handle of this situation, despite the many other issues that government has to wrestle with, not the least of which is the return to full-time education for our children, which is an absolute priority.

"I think all of that information should give confidence that Covid is getting all the attention it requires within government, despite the fact that we have to deal with a range of other issues.”

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