A ROW has erupted over First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s response to a journalist during Friday’s Covid-19 briefing from St Andrew’s House.

Michael Blackley, a political journalist from the Daily Mail, had asked the FM whether she could find more cash in the Budget to support businesses struggling amid the Omicron surge, and suggested self-isolation requirements could be cut to limit staff shortages.

“Yeah that’d really help – that would spread infection even further and that would be not doing any favours for businesses,” Sturgeon responded.

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Sturgeon then pointed out that without borrowing powers, the Scottish Government is reliant on UK funding to provide extra cash for those hardest hit by the latest developments in the pandemic.

“I don’t know if you’ve listened to a single word I’ve said, Michael. I don’t think it’s enough. But we’ve found £100m out of a fixed Budget, having to take that from elsewhere … every penny we now take, I don’t know where you think I should take it from.

“The health service? The education budget? The justice budget? When the UK Government makes these schemes available right now they’re not taking it from any of these budgets, they’re borrowing it.


“If I had the borrowing powers the Treasury had, I would be able to do that. And it’s a sensible thing to be doing right now to help shield the economy from the pressures of this. I don’t have those borrowing powers. I can only look to the Treasury to use them, and it will be unconscionable given what we’re facing right now if the Treasury doesn’t very quickly start to use these things.”

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The First Minister said the leaders in Wales and Northern Ireland are making the same points about the urgent need for additional Treasury funding to support affected businesses.

“This is just a feature of how funding in the UK works and I think even for the Daily Mail that should not be impossible to get your head around,” she said.

In the aftermath of the exchange, the journalist took to social media to say he would not apologise for asking questions on behalf of business owners. “It's up to the First Minister to assess whether the way she responded is what they want to hear,” he told Twitter followers.

Conservative MP Andrew Bowie was among the politicians criticising the First Minister for her answer.

The National:

“The arrogant, disrespectful and downright dismissive way the First Minister spoke to the press, asking legitimate questions this afternoon, spoke volumes. If any Westminster politician addressed a press conference in that way they would, rightly, be eviscerated,” the Aberdeen and West Kincardine representative wrote

Craig Hoy MSP, the Scottish Conservatives’ shadow health minister, said he had worked with the reporter and praised his “professional and polite” nature. “The First Minister’s response tells us everything we might want to know about her real views on a free press,” he added.

Meanwhile Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross took aim at the FM, tweeting: “The Scottish press sometimes ask questions we don't like - that's their job.

“Absolutely no need to attack them like this when they are asking legitimate questions on behalf of the public and their readers.”

However, SNP MP Stewart McDonald defended his party leader against the criticism, referring Bowie to an incident of a Tory MP attacking England’s chief medical officer on social media earlier this week.

“Mate your MPs openly attack the CMO and an actual Cabinet minister coined the phrase ‘the public are sick of experts’. Wind your wee neck right in,” he told the MP.

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.