SCOTLAND’S response to the pandemic has been “constrained” by being bound to the rest of the UK, according to health experts.

Reacting to suggestions that Scotland was no better than England in its handling of the virus, Professor Devi Sridhar, of the University of Edinburgh, said the Scottish Government’s “hands were tied” because of its lack of independence.

Despite this, she said the Scottish Government had managed to achieve some divergence from Westminster’s actions.

Speaking after Dominic Cummings’s dramatic account of the Tories’ failures throughout the pandemic, Sridhar said that at the beginning of the outbreak Scotland had followed a similar trajectory to England because at that point the only source of advice was from Sage, the UK Government’s scientific advisory group.

However early into the first lockdown, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set up her own advisory group with full transparency of the membership and minutes.

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Sridhar said that from that point there was a divergence in terms of Scotland’s case numbers and number of deaths.

She added: “The problem is that we are all one country so we don’t have control in Scotland over borders, stopping flights coming in, screening and also financial powers to be able to support different kinds of restrictions and interventions when needed.

“We have done the best we can in Scotland and a lot of mistakes have been made but we are having our hands tied along the way.”

Professor Stephen Reicher, of St Andrews University, said there had been “fundamental differences” between Westminster’s and Holyrood’s approach to the pandemic.

“The outcome is constrained by the fact that Scotland geographically and politically can’t be that separate,” he said, adding that despite this Scotland did have a different approach.

“Scotland does have an infectious suppression plan. I might not agree with every detail of it but it does have a plan,” he said.

Reicher also contrasted the leadership of Sturgeon with the UK Tory Government, pointing out that Cummings had said the Cobra emergency meetings had gone better when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was absent.

“What does that say about a leader when he does better when he is absent? Whatever people think about Nicola Sturgeon, I don’t think anyone would be saying that of her.”

He added: “There were all sorts of divergences in the relationship between the Government and the public which was exemplified last week when Health Secretary Matt Hancock went to Bolton and effectively blamed people lying in hospital for getting infected.

“He implied it was their fault for choosing not to get vaccinated but when you look at the vaccination rate in Bolton it is virtually identical to that of the rest of England.”

It was a contrast with how Sturgeon’s handled the issue of people not turning up for vaccination appointments, Reicher said.

“She made it very clear she was not pointing the finger. She did not treat the public as stupid and a problem and to be hectored. She treated them with much more respect as a partner and part of the broader conversation,” said Reicher.