NICOLA Sturgeon’s cautious handling of the pandemic and management of restrictions has helped keep deaths and infections lower than south of the Border, according to new analysis in the Financial Times.

The piece, published today, says that the First Minister’s willingness to maintain restrictions came in spite of pressure from groups asking for a less cautious approach to lockdown.

It notes that Covid policy differences have had political implications, as the widespread perception that Sturgeon has handled the pandemic better has helped boost support for independence.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Boris Johnson 'making up' dates on lifting of Covid lockdown

The FT piece also looks at death rates in care homes across England and Scotland. It finds that excess deaths have fallen significantly faster in homes north of the Border, where Sturgeon’s government made vaccinating their residents a priority.

In England, where great prominence was put on population share rather than aiming at the most vulnerable, excess care home deaths rose to levels not seen since before the summer of 2020.

Yesterday, the First Minister announced that care home deaths have fallen by 69% in the past four weeks.

This week, they accounted for just under 12% of the weekly death toll. With one week’s exception, this was “the lowest proportion recorded in any week since the very start of the pandemic”.

While Johnson has said England is on a “one way road to freedom”, and indicated a date of June 21 for the almost complete lifting of restrictions, Sturgeon has been more cautious.

Speaking at yesterday’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she would be “making it up” if she were to give firm dates as Johnson had done.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland may move to lockdown level 2 in April

Sturgeon cautioned that the effects of the initial stages of lockdown easing could not be known, and so it was impossible to guess at what may happen further than six weeks into the future.

The First Minister’s decision to lockdown the Scottish central belt in autumn 2020, although cases were not as high as they were in parts of England, was cited as one of the reasons for the relative success north of the Border by Professor Linda Bauld.

The public health expert told the FT that Scotland had been helped by its low infection rate over the summer, and the extra warning it was afforded of the more transmissible B117 coronavirus variant, first identified in southern England.

Although England had to fully lockdown in the autumn, Scotland continued to use its levels framework. By acting earlier, the strictness of necessary measures was lessened, according to Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh university.

Sharing the FT story on social media, the First Minister said it was “worth a read”.