The National:

LABOUR peer George Foulkes announced on Twitter yesterday he had complained to BBC Scotland, stating that the broadcasting of Scottish Government Covid-19 briefings broke Ofcom and BBC Charter rules because they don’t provide a right of reply to Opposition leaders.

This was met with general bemusement as it is clearly a ludicrous objection. The purpose of the briefings is to provide the public with information about the progress of, and response to, the pandemic. There would be no purpose in giving Opposition leaders a right of reply, except to put them in a rather awkward position which I am sure they would not seek for themselves.

It is hard to see Mr Foulkes’ antics as anything other than an attempt to woo the hardcore Unionist bloc on Twitter, who regard the regular broadcast briefings as evidence that the Scottish Government controls the BBC.

While the position taken by George Foulkes is at the more extreme end of the scale, there are mutterings from many Unionist politicians that the briefings aren’t really necessary and give the Scottish Government an unfair political advantage. What to make of this strange behaviour?

READ MORE: Lord complains to BBC over Nicola Sturgeon's coronavirus briefings

It is worth reiterating some basic facts here. Covid-19 is a novel virus for which there is, as yet, no cure or vaccine. There is much about the virus that is still unknown, although scientific understanding of it grows every day, albeit in a complex and even chaotic way. This explains why scientific advice changes on a regular basis, another point that certain politicians do not seem to understand.

In these circumstances, regular public briefings providing the most up-to-date information are essential. It is entirely appropriate that they are led by the First Minister, along with other government ministers and senior officials. They are the decision-makers. It is also entirely appropriate that journalists are able to question and interrogate ministers and officials at each briefing.

I suspect that some politicians feel that their noses are put a little bit out of joint by this practice. On one level I can understand that. It is primarily parliament’s role to hold ministers to account and, of course, this still happens at First Minister’s Questions and during other sessions in parliament.

However, the media has a vital role to play in reporting and explaining public health guidance to the wider public. It is important that journalists are able to ask questions, so that the thinking behind decisions can be explored. I know many people who find the question and answer sessions helpful for that very reason.

READ MORE: 'It's bizarre': Philippa Whitford hits back at Lord's briefing complaint

Some have complained that journalists have at times used the briefings to ask questions which don’t directly relate to the pandemic. I think this is a very fair criticism - and anybody who watches the briefings will be familiar with the look of exasperation that comes across the First Minister’s face when she is asked such a question.

However, the responsibility to ask appropriate and pertinent questions rests with the journalists, and I suggest that the politicians complaining about the broadcast briefings would also be the first to complain if Scottish Government officials asked for questions to be pre-submitted so that they could weed out the "political" ones.

Covid-19 remains a very serious threat. It has not gone away. As we move through different phases of response, it is essential that the public understands what is required of them. To achieve high levels of compliance people need to understand why guidance is provided - what its purpose is and what it is trying to achieve. It is not enough simply to ask people to comply, they need to be given a full understanding of how their behaviour can help keep themselves and others safe.

It has been said many times that the virus can only be beaten by our collective efforts. That can’t actually be repeated too often. This means sharing as much information as possible as regularly as possible, so we all understand our role in this effort. The vast majority of the public understands this, irrespective of political allegiance. It is a pity some politicians don’t.