THE BBC’s Scotland editor Sarah Smith was forced to apologise after saying she made a “mistake” when she said the First Minister “enjoyed” making lockdown decisions.

The reporter was discussing Scottish Government plans to end lockdown during a BBC News at Ten segment on Monday night when she said it “has been obvious that Nicola Sturgeon has enjoyed the opportunity to set her own lockdown rules” rather than follow Westminster’s lead.

Earlier this month the Prime Minister announced he would ease coronavirus lockdown measures in England and remove the Stay at Home messaging, but Nicola Sturgeon, like her counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland, maintained tighter restrictions and continued urging Scots to stay at home to save lives.

The First Minister earlier rejected Smith’s suggestion that she had enjoyed making those decisions, saying: “Never in my entire political career have I ‘enjoyed’ anything less than this. My heart breaks every day for all those who have lost loved ones to this virus.”

But Smith has since said her use of the word was a “mistake” and she had intended to say “embraced”.

She tweeted: “I do not believe that @NicolaSturgeon is enjoying this crisis. I had meant to say on the 10 o’clock news that she has ‘embraced’ the opportunity to make a policy unique to Scotland. I said ‘enjoyed’ by mistake. Not suggesting she is enjoying crisis but embracing devolution.

In a further post, she said: “On last night’s News at Ten I said @NicolaSturgeon had ‘enjoyed the opportunity to set her own lockdown rules’. I should have said she was ‘embracing’ the opportunity to set a separate policy for Scotland. I never meant to suggest she is enjoying this crisis. Of course she is not.”

Then in a third tweet, she said: “For the avoidance of any doubt. I am sorry that by mistake I said on the news last night that @NicolaSturgeon was ‘enjoying the opportunity’ to set lockdown policy in Scotland. That was not what I meant to say and I apologise to her for my error.”

READ MORE: BBC News Scotland editor Sarah Smith and her misspeaking

An earlier version of the same report on Scotland’s “route map” out of lockdown, broadcast on the BBC Six O’Clock News, showed Smith used the word “embraced” rather than “enjoyed”.

After Smith’s apology, Sturgeon responded to say: “I’ve made clear my view on this report. I’m not ‘enjoying’ or ‘embracing’ an ‘opportunity’. I’m just doing what I judge best in very difficult circumstances. That said, I understand the scrutiny that comes with it and accept Sarah’s clarification. For me, the matter is closed.”

People picked up on Smith’s language on the BBC News at Ten programme quickly on Monday night.

Speaking from outside the BBC’s Glasgow HQ, Smith told viewers: “The Scottish Government says like all of the UK nations, they base their advice on expert advice they are given and that it has got nothing to do with politics, but it has been obvious that Nicola Sturgeon has enjoyed the opportunity to set her own lockdown rules and not have to follow what is happening in England and other parts of the UK.”

Several high-profile SNP figures spoke out against the comment online, with SNP MP for East Renfrewshire Kirsten Oswald tweeting: “It strikes me that leading a country through a pandemic, doing your best to look after everyone in a terrible and unprecedented situation, with all the huge weight of responsibility that brings, will not be enjoyable.”

On Twitter some felt Smith’s apology did not acknowledge that Scotland has not been the only devolved nation to do things differently to the UK Government.

Others came to her defence. Kevin Pringle, former SNP director of communications, posted: “Sarah Smith is a quality, professional journalist, who on this occasion chose the wrong words (as we all do sometimes, I know I have); she has done the right thing by apologising and the FM regards the matter as closed, as should the rest of us.”

The BBC said they would not be commenting on the matter.

READ MORE: Councillor says Sarah Smith should tell First Minister to 'f*** off'

Meanwhile, a Labour councillor who once called Mhairi Black a “ned” found himself in hot water again when he publicly tweeted Smith to tell her how to react to the First Minister’s concern over the report.

North Ayrshire councillor Alex Gallagher responded to Smith’s apology to say: “Get a backbone. Tell her to f-off.” After receiving backlash he then replied to his own post asking: “A bit strong, you think?”

Gallagher, who represents the North Coast Ward, also found himself in an online row in 2018 when he accused a journalist of not being a “real Scot” for writing positively about the SNP.