NICOLA Sturgeon has hit out at the UK Government after they scheduled a key four-nations call at the same time as her regular coronavirus briefing.

The First Minister was forced to defend leaving the summit with counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Tories accused her of putting a “TV appearance” above the pandemic.

Sturgeon said the phone call was an update from the UK Government on Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of the lockdown for England.

The First Minister told the daily briefing: “On the route maps out of lockdown, I have just come from – I had to leave early to come and do the briefing – a four-nations discussion that is probably still under way actually.”

When asked why she left the call, the SNP leader replied: “Because I do this briefing every day.

“We pointed out that I do this briefing when a call was scheduled for quarter to 12. I joined it for as long as I could, consistent with my regular commitments.

“Because if I hadn’t turned up here today, no doubt you would have asked that.

“The call was only set up, I think, yesterday, and I’m represented on the call by officials when I’m not there.

“You know, I wasn’t in charge of the time, I went to it for as long as I could. It wasn’t a discussion about, as I understand it, what we were all doing. It was a report on what the Prime Minister was about to announce.

“So, you know, people will criticise me for wherever I do in relation to the UK Government, so I’m just going to do what I think is right, what discharges my responsibilities to the best of my ability.” 

Sturgeon’s televised briefings have often been criticised by the opposition parties who claim they are rarely anything more than glorified party political broadcasts.

The Tories yesterday repeated their call to have the briefings fronted by public health officials in the run-up to May’s election.

A party spokesman said: “It will raise more than a few eyebrows that Nicola Sturgeon’s priority is the BBC briefing over working together constructively with other governments.

“She missed a pivotal discussion in favour of a TV appearance where nothing was announced. It shows the value that the SNP leader puts on these BBC briefings in the run-up to the election in May.

“We continue to be in favour of the briefings continuing, fronted solely by public health officials who would not miss vital discussions or misuse the platform to make political points.”

Earlier this month, George Foulkes the Labour peer, wrote to Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, warning him that showing the briefings in the pre-election period would break impartiality rules.

He urged him to “intervene personally and immediately to make it clear this is not going to continue”.

Downing Street later said the governments were working “hand in hand”.

Johnson’s Press Secretary Allegra Stratton told reporters: “What you have seen over the last few months of the pandemic is the Westminster Government and the Scottish Government working very well together.

“You have seen, in where we find ourselves now, where roadmaps will be set out by the PM later and it will be hand in hand with Nicola Sturgeon’s plans.

“But going back further, you have the furlough and the support for Scottish businesses that the Westminster Government made sure was there.

“You had track and trace and the help in the Highlands and Islands and, most critically and most recently, the making sure by the Westminster Government that the number of vaccines were there to be distributed around Scotland. So, the relationship between Westminster’s Government and Scotland and the Scottish people is working very well at the moment.”

Scotland recorded 715 new coronavirus cases and no deaths yesterday.

The First Minister said Scotland’s test positivity rate stood at 6.6%, up from 5.5% the previous day.

Meanwhile a total of 1,445,488 had received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, an increase of 13,546 from the previous day.

Sturgeon announced that people with “mild or moderate” learning difficulties would be vaccinated as part of the group six jags.

Currently that had only been open to those who have health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease

or severe or profound learning


The First Minister also said that all adults in Scotland could be offered the first vaccine dose by July 31 – if supplies hold up.