SCOTLAND’S national clinical director has defended the First Minister after she was filmed not wearing a face mask during a campaign visit.

A clip posted on social media and shared by Scottish Tory MSPs shows Nicola Sturgeon without a face covering while at a barber’s in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, on Saturday.

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland (GMS) on Monday, professor Jason Leitch described the incident as a momentary lapse from the SNP leader.

He told the programme: “I've done that too, I've got up from the dinner table quite recently – out for a meal – gone to the bathroom and halfway there you realise oh, I need to put my face covering on. Because this does still feel like a slightly odd thing to have to do.

“I haven't spoken to the First Minister today. I imagine I'll speak to her later. My understanding is it was a matter of seconds, she realises the place is crowded, puts her face covering on, which is actually what we're asking people to do.

“The guidance is if you are in a crowded area, inadvertently or deliberately, then put a face covering on and that will protect you.”

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In the video shared by Tory MSPs, Sturgeon is seen without a face covering as she mingles with customers and pats the head of a man in a barber’s chair while mimicking the sound of an electric razor.

She is wearing a tartan face mask in the video of her visit to Iconic Gents Hair posted on her official Twitter account, in which she can be seen shaving a man’s beard.

At the time of the visit, there was a legal requirement to wear face coverings in most indoor public places in Scotland, including shops, public transport and hairdressers. That rule moved into guidance on Monday.

Leitch's defence of the First Minister drew criticism from the Scottish Conservatives, who claimed his comments were "inappropriate".

They accused the professor of "misrepresenting the Covid laws as they stood when Nicola Sturgeon clearly broke them at the weekend".

Commenting on Sunday, an SNP spokesperson said: "The First Minister was invited into the barbers during an outdoor visit on the street.

"Within a few seconds, she realised she hadn't put her mask back on and immediately put it on."

During the programme, Leitch also said coronavirus is now being dealt with through common sense and guidance rather than law.

Vaccination and therapeutics have “changed the game”, the professor told the progamme, but he acknowledged daily case rates were still high.

He said: “We’re still cautious as public health advisers because we’re still worried about the overwhelmed nature of our health systems around the world – not just here, but Scotland is no exception.

“Our emergency departments are struggling, our hospitals are struggling, not just with Covid – with backlog, with everything else coming in that has waited until this point to come forward.”

Leitch was asked about the fact he had not been convinced by the effectiveness of face coverings early in the pandemic.

He said he wished he had known at that stage about the extent of asymptomatic transmission and the airborne nature of the virus.