“Opposition parties accuse Sturgeon of missing a ‘pivotal’ call… Conservative spokesman says Nicola Sturgeon's priority is the BBC briefing over working together constructively with other governments…” – Daily Express headline, 22 February


Many would say that leaving a call from Michael Gove to appear before the Scottish public on Covid is exactly what an elected Scottish FM should prioritise.


On Monday 22 February, the FM held a regular, televised media briefing on Covid issues. The briefing presented substantial new information which headlined in the following day’s press. The FM announced that Scotland will return to a regional tiers system of lockdown alerts as restrictions start to ease. She spoke on the day that primary schools in Scotland reopened.

However, some media representatives chose instead to highlight the fact that the FM had left a call with the Cabinet Office to speak at the regular Monday morning briefing.  One said Nicola Sturgeon's statement that she does the briefing "every day" is a myth, writing that in 2021 she has done briefings two times in five of the weeks, and three times in two of the weeks. 

So where is she on those other days?


The First Minister normally attends a broadcast covid briefing each weekday, at 12.15pm, where she is questioned by the press.  Sometimes other Scottish ministers deputise for the FM. The FM is normally present for major announcements, such as she made on 22 February regarding the continued use of the tiers system (which England has now abandoned).

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon hits out at UK Government for arranging call to clash with briefing

In addition, on every Tuesday the First Minister delivers a Covid update to the Scottish Parliament and then, on either Wednesdays or Thursdays, she answers Covid-related questions at FMQs. She thus is subject to weekly scrutiny by MSPs. Effectively, the FM has and does make herself available for questions on Covid-related matters “every day”.


The call was scheduled by Downing Street. Arrangements were made on Sunday, the day before the call. Scottish Government representatives pointed out the clash with the FM’s regular TV briefing. However, the Cabinet Office chose to go ahead claiming this was not a roundtable discussion but a report on what the UK Government was about to announce regarding the lockdown in England.

The FM was represented on the call by Scottish Government officials. Also on the call was Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, and Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. Note: the media did not criticise the Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster for her non-appearance on the call.

The actual call was not with Boris Johnson but with Michael Gove. A reasonable person might conclude that if the PM could not be bothered to be on the call – but instead hand it to a subordinate – then expecting the First Minister to break her schedule was either impertinent or a political manoeuvre.  The fact that Unionist papers led the next day on the FM’s leaving of the call suggests Westminster sources may have been deliberately briefing against her. 

READ MORE: Scotland's economy to start reopening from April, Nicola Sturgeon says

Other evidence of political manipulation can be seen in a comment from “a Scottish Conservative spokesman” quoted in the Express: “It will raise more than a few eyebrows that Nicola Sturgeon’s priority is the BBC briefing over working together constructively with other governments.” Again, the call with Michael Gove was not a conversation between the UK administrations but Gove informing the devolved governments what London had already decided to do.

The Scottish Tory spokesperson went on to demand that the FM’s daily briefing be headed instead by a non-partisan public health official. Curiously, the same spokesperson did not call for the Westminster Government’s Covid briefings to be fronted by a health professional rather than by Boris Johnson or Matt Hancock. This seems to be something of a double standard.


The FM summed up her position: “People will criticise me for whatever I do in relation to the UK Government, so I am just going to do what I think is right and what discharges my responsibilities to the best of my ability.”

She concluded: “If I hadn’t turned up here today [at her regular covid briefing to the Scottish media] no doubt you’d have asked about that.”

As a representative example of Unionist media reporting of the FM’s daily briefings, consider this: on 19 February the Express led with the headline “Nicola Sturgeon caught picking her nose during LIVE covid press briefing – VIDEO”.


The National: National Fact Check False 

More Unionist disinformation.