The Scottish Government should have moved quicker to build up contact-tracing capacity, demand that borders were closed and protect the most vulnerable, a think tank has said.
A report published by the Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER) also claimed the UK Government's delay in implementing public health measures to stop COVID-19 led to "thousands" of deaths.
It was authored by Allyson Pollock, a professor of public health at Newcastle University, and Dr Louisa Harding-Edgar, a GP and academic fellow at Glasgow University.
Their policy note on the coronavirus crisis asks why ministers in Edinburgh did not do more during the early stages of the pandemic.
Prof. Allyson Pollock said: "When the epidemic was spreading too fast in some areas in Britain for contact tracing capacity then the next step should have been to keep disease out of areas which had no cases and to stop all mass gatherings.
"The Scottish ban on gatherings over 500 on March 16 was too little too late."
Dr Louisa Harding-Edgar said: "It is incomprehensible that the Scottish Government did not argue for introducing travel restrictions internationally and nationally.
"And there was a failure to protect the vulnerable not least due to fragmentation, privatisation and underfunding of social care services."
The pair make a number of recommendations, including nationalising nursing home and social care services.
They say public health and disease control experts must be put "in the driving seat" and call for local disease surveillance teams to be set up.
The report also criticised the government in Westminster.
It says: "There is no doubt that the Westminster government's delay in implementing public health measures to prevent Covid-19 has cost thousands of lives and enormous hardship for the many millions of people plunged into unemployment and debt.
"For nearly two months following the first two confirmed case of coronavirus in Britain on 30 January, the Westminster government allowed the virus to let rip throughout our communities with inadequate effort to control or contain it."
It continues: "So the question is: why did the Scottish Government not demand UK action to seal borders and stop travel, and why did the Scottish Government not build up capacity for contact tracing, take steps to protect those most at risk, and protect some areas so that life could continue, or at the very least that children could continue with their education in unaffected areas?"
The SCER describes itself as an "independent and unaligned EU think tank, based in Edinburgh." Its founder and director is Dr Kirsty Hughes.
Responding to the report, a Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government has sought to inform the public with the best scientific advice possible, but the science will never be exact and we are in uncharted territory so we also need to make careful judgments and be prepared to adapt and change course as we go.
"Today, the First Minister has published a new document - the first and most detailed paper of its kind published by any government in the UK - outlining a way forward beyond the current phase of comprehensive lockdown.
"We want to ease restrictions, but we cannot rule out having to reapply them if need be. What we will be seeking to find is a new normal - a way of living alongside this virus, but in a form that keeps it under control."