Gove states in the Covid inquiry that Sturgeon acted prematurely in prohibiting large gatherings.

Gove states in the Covid inquiry that Sturgeon acted prematurely in prohibiting large gatherings.

The UK Covid inquiry has been informed that Nicola Sturgeon acted prematurely and breached confidentiality by announcing a prohibition on large gatherings in Scotland before other regions of the UK had reached a consensus during the pandemic.

On March 12, 2020, the initial minister declared that the Scottish government would prohibit any assemblies with 500 or more individuals the next week. This decision was made before a Cobra meeting was held later that day to address the crisis.

Former UK cabinet minister Michael Gove expressed concerns and unease within the Whitehall community. This prompted then prime minister Boris Johnson, along with other cabinet ministers and high-ranking civil servants, to doubt the trustworthiness of Nicola Sturgeon.

Gove, the minister in charge of coordinating the UK’s devolved administrations, stated that although Sturgeon acted too hastily, he was inclined to believe that her intentions were not malicious or driven by political motives.

Although Sturgeon did not inform the UK government of her intention to make the announcement that day, she had expressed her desire to prohibit large gatherings.

Gove stated to Jamie Dawson KC, the counsel for the inquiry, that his strategy was to avoid letting moments of frustration or letdown turn sour. He emphasized the importance of focusing on effective collaboration in the future.

Hallett, the head of the investigation, interrupted and stated to Gove: “That could be seen as overly generous.”

The then first minister’s announcement about mass gatherings in Scotland was not only a decision, but also a violation of confidentiality. As a long-time and highly experienced government minister, you understand the significance of maintaining confidentiality in government decision-making.

On Monday, the investigation looked into portions of a private memo from the Cabinet Office that was prepared for the Cobra meeting. This meeting occurred two weeks prior to the UK’s lockdown. The memo stated that the final determination on prohibiting large gatherings would only be made after receiving advice from all four chief medical officers in the UK.

Hallett stated that Sturgeon was not obligated to follow the ministerial code that applies to UK ministers who attend Cobra meetings. Gove acknowledged this, but also suggested that ministers in devolved governments should still wait until a decision has been reached by all parties involved.

Sturgeon will be providing testimony to the inquiry later this week and is likely to be questioned about the event that exacerbated ongoing tensions between the two governments during the crisis.

During the investigation, it was revealed that on the same day, the prime minister’s advisor, Dominic Cummings, had advised Johnson via text to avoid having constant phone meetings with the devolved administrations, as it would hinder the truth from being told.

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Cummings suggested that Johnson hold his daily briefings in the cabinet room at No 10, which were restricted to a smaller group, instead of larger Cobra meetings that involved representatives from all the devolved administrations, as well as officials and ministers from various departments within Whitehall.

Gove stated during the inquiry that cabinet meetings were completely confidential, giving Johnson the opportunity to privately discuss and explore ideas with his advisers.

On the previous Thursday, the investigation examined a conversation between Sturgeon and her former chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, where the first minister referred to Johnson as a “ridiculous clown”. Sturgeon also expressed that his complete lack of ability is now causing her to feel offended on behalf of politicians everywhere.

Dawson reported that Scottish officials were infuriated by Johnson’s suggestion in May 2020 to weaken the stay-at-home lockdown measures. Sturgeon felt as though she was being pressured into this decision, which she opposed. According to Lloyd, the discussion during a Cobra meeting regarding this matter was chaotic.

Gove stated that he trusts Sturgeon and her colleagues carried out their duties with professionalism and in the best interest of the public for most of the pandemic. However, it would be foolish to think that she did not take advantage of some opportunities to push for independence.