Michael Gove defends Covid money spent on Union poll

Michael Gove has defended the use of Covid money to poll attitudes on the Union.

The senior UK Government minister is under increasing pressure to answer why a £560,000 government marketing contract was also used to poll attitudes towards the Union.

Speaking in Aberdeen on Monday, Mr Gove insisted it was no different to the polling conducted by the Scottish administration.

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He said: “The contract was actually assigned by others and not by me and the contract was assigned in order to ensure that the UK Government was in a position to be able to make sure that vital messages like hands, face space and protecting the NHS were communicated effectively to the public because clear messaging is an important part of public health overall.

Michael Gove defended the polling and claimed the Scottish Government would have done similar research

“We don’t use taxpayer funds for party political polling.

“It is the case that the Scottish Government has done some polling into attitudes towards the Scottish Government and the UK Government during the handling of the pandemic.

“Our concentration has been making sure that we can get an effective public health message across.

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“The UK Government are concentrating on making sure that we could make the best possible case across the United Kingdom on how we could deal with the Covid pandemic.

“I'm a strong supporter of the United Kingdom working together, but as both governments proclaim and acknowledge at the moment, the most important thing is not to have a debate about the constitution, but to concentrate on the Covid recovery.”

Mr Gove insisted it was fine for the Scottish Government to poll on the matter and dismissed accusations doing so showed his party had lost its “moral compass”.

He said: “I'm not criticising the Scottish Government for doing so, but I think that to suggest that governments, whether in Hollywood or Westminster, who are seeking to refine their messages in order to make sure that they have the best impact on public health, are not governments that have lost their moral compass.

The decision to award the contract to the firm, whose bosses were friends of ex-No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings as well as Mr Gove, has previously been ruled unlawful by the High Court.

Last week SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford asked Boris Johnson to commit to a “full public inquiry”.

Mr Gove also admitted it was right for Matt Hancock to resign, but also defended the former health secretary’s record in government.

Mr Hancock resigned on Saturday after being caught breaching social distancing guidelines by kissing aide Gina Coladangelo.

Mr Gove said: “He was a dedicated public servant. He made a mistake, but we should remember that he was one of those central to the successful vaccination program.

“He worked incredibly hard for the NHS and he's now resigned and I think we should respect his privacy.

“I think that Matt made the right decision and I think in all of these questions, all of us have an opportunity to reflect on different aspects of the matter.”

With the kiss caught on camera, the Cabinet Office minister suggested he wasn’t concerned about being filmed.

He said: “I don't think we have CCTV in my office.

“Obviously, we have security measures at the door of the Cabinet Office in order to make sure that the overall building is safe.”

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