THE UK has handled the Covid-19 pandemic "appallingly badly", MPs have been told.

Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee heard there was a lack of transparency from the UK Government in the early days of the crisis and that Nicola Sturgeon has been “far better” at explaining her decision making to the public.

Professor Linda Bauld, an expert on public health at the University of Edinburgh, said ministers at a UK level also failed to make clear when their decisions only applied to England.

The committee heard evidence about the Covid-19 response from four researchers on Thursday, as part of its inquiry into how different governments are handling the crisis.

Bauld said the SAGE advisory group is almost devoid of people with "on the ground public health experience" despite having eminent members in other fields.

Conservative MP Andrew Bowie asked her if the "messy" nature of devolution had hampered efforts at tackling coronavirus.

She said: "I think so – I wouldn't say it's the main reason. Let's be frank, I should have said at the beginning, we have done appallingly badly in terms of international comparisons.

"In terms of excess mortality, I think Spain is the only country in Europe that's slightly ahead of us. We have not handled this pandemic well, in any part of the UK."

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She said the diverging public health messages had been difficult to understand for members of the public.

Bauld said: "I think it's been very confusing how the decisions have been made at UK level, not all decisions but some decisions.

"I think in Scotland, again it's not perfect at all, but the First Minister has been far better at communicating these things. She's been able to say where her decision has come from, the CMO (chief medical officer) or the advisory group."

Surveys show trust in Government messaging has been higher in Scotland than in England, she said.

The fact papers from SAGE were not initially released was "completely unacceptable and completely unnecessary," she said.

Nicola McEwen, co-director of the Centre on Constitutional Change, agreed there had been confusion.

The UK Government has "two hats," she said – simultaneously speaking as the Government of England while representing the UK as a whole.

She said it "hasn't always been clear when public health messages are directed at England alone".

Professor David Bell, of Stirling University, said the impact on Scotland's oil and gas sector is "particularly concerning," while the 18.9% contraction of GDP in April is "shockingly large."

He said it is too early to say if the Scottish economy will be worse hit than the rest of the UK's.

Akash Paun, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government, told the committee there is a need for stronger formal relations between the different governments in the UK.