Nicola Sturgeon says two Scottish ministers 'mortified' for breaking Covid rules
Nicola Sturgeon has said two of her ministers were “pretty mortified” after breaking coronavirus rules after they were pictured campaigning with groups of activists.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has apologised after deleting evidence of breaching coronavirus restrictions, having posted a picture on social media showing himself meeting with four other party activists while leafleting for May’s Holyrood elections.
And Graeme Dey, the minister who first announced the election coronavirus rules to MSPs, broke those rules by holding an outdoor gathering which he later apologised for.
Ms Sturgeon said no-one was infallible, referring to her own “mishap” over Christmas where she was seen speaking to others without a mask.
She said: “The ministers, Graeme and John, who made a mistake around the size of gatherings when they were leafleting, were in the wrong.
“Both of them have apologised. If, as many of you do, you know either of them and how seriously they take their responsibilities – they are both pretty mortified at having done that.
“None of us, unfortunately, are perfect and none of us are infallible.”
Mr Swinney deleted the image he had taken hours later, with candidates having been told only a maximum of four people from two households are able to meet up for leafleting.
His social media post appeared to show a direct breach of the rules, and attracted more than 190 retweets and 1,300 likes before it was deleted.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Swinney said: “A small number of my supporters were leafleting in the same town.
“We should not have gathered together at that time and I apologise for that.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Peter Barrett, who is running against Mr Swinney in the Perthshire North constituency, said he was “disappointed” by the Deputy First Minister’s actions.
He said: “Every candidate needs to set a good example and that goes double for Cabinet ministers.
“Instead senior SNP figures have breached the rules at the first available opportunity.
“Perthshire North needs an MSP who will uphold high standards in public office.”
Murdo Fraser, who is the Scottish Conservative candidate in the constituency, said: “This is very embarrassing for John Swinney, who, as Deputy First Minister, should be very aware of the various Covid restrictions.
“What this does illustrate is just how complicated the many Covid restrictions are and how many of them are difficult to understand.
“The success of the UK Government’s vaccination programme should mean that we should start to see some of the restrictions starting to be eased, and this should result in situations like this not arising.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Officers have since spoken to those involved and will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance, and encourage compliance, using enforcement as a last resort.
“There were no fixed penalty notices issued.”
The gaffe comes three weeks after Mr Swinney survived a vote of no confidence at Holyrood after MSPs rejected the motion by 65 to 57.
The vote was brought by the Tories after a row over the government providing its legal advice to an inquiry committee.
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