SCOTTISH Tories have taken aim at professor Jason Leitch for defending Nicola Sturgeon over a breach of face mask rules.

The First Minister was filmed while not wearing a covering during a campaign visit to a hairdressers in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, on Saturday.

Footage of the incident was shared on social media by Conservative MSPs, with the SNP leader subsequently reported to the police.

The national clinical director characterised the incident as a momentary lapse in concentration and said Sturgeon’s mask had been off for “a matter of seconds”.

Addressing the matter briefly during a lengthy interview on Monday about Covid-19 and the NHS, he told BBC Good Morning Scotland (GMS) that in realising her mistake and putting her mask back on, the First Minister was doing “what we’re asking people to do”.

But that intervention angered the Scottish Tories, who accused the professor of “misrepresenting” the law.

MSP Craig Hoy said: "It is inappropriate for a civil servant to defend Nicola Sturgeon in this way. These kinds of questions should be left to politicians to answer.

"Instead, SNP ministers are in hiding and Jason Leith is blurring the lines between ministers and government officials.”

At the time of Sturgeon’s visit to the barbers on Saturday, 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.

Hoy added: "Mr Leitch is also misrepresenting the Covid laws as they stood when Nicola Sturgeon clearly broke them at the weekend.

"Face mask use was still in law until today but Mr Leitch backed up Nicola Sturgeon's excuse that she only had to put the mask on when in a crowded space.

"If the SNP had listened to us weeks ago and changed face mask rules from law to guidance, he and Nicola Sturgeon would have been correct.

"But they failed to do this and Mr Leitch should not be confusing the public, or doing the SNP's job for them, by trying to defend Nicola Sturgeon in this manner."

READ MORE: SNP respond after Nicola Sturgeon 'reported to police' over face mask

Hoy’s colleague Sharon Dowey added on Twitter: “Surely it's the job of SNP politicians to defend Nicola Sturgeon, not a civil servant's?”

Stephen Kerr added: "This is the equivalent of Prof. Chris Whitty telling us it was only a birthday cake, and only for 9 minutes – why is the Scottish Government's Clinical Director trying to cover for the First Minister's rule-break?"

Murdo Fraser also shared posts from GB news presenter Dan Wootton and businessman Duncan Bannatyne calling for the First Minister to resign. 

In the video shared by Tory MSPs, the First Minister 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.

Leitch told GMS: “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.”

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."

A Police Scotland confirmed a complaint about the matter is being “assessed”.

Among those to have complained to Police Scotland was former Tory party treasurer in Moray Jane Lax. She was suspended from the party in 2019 after making comments about the First Minister’s miscarriage.