THE First Minister has said she will “feel the weight” of the decision to send untested hospital patients to care homes causing deadly Covid outbreaks “every day” for the rest of her life.

Nicola Sturgeon said Scottish officials had already begun the process of examining the implications of a High Court judgement that backed campaigners taking on the UK Government for the same policy.

Anas Sarwar said the decision not to test patients arriving in care homes from hospitals during the first wave of the pandemic was “unlawful, unreasonable, irrational and cost lives”.

Sturgeon gave an emotional answer when she said that the facts and figures quoted by the Scottish Labour leader were “embedded in my soul”.

She added: “There is nothing anybody in this Chamber will say to me that makes me feel the weight of these decisions any heavier than I already do and will do for every day of the rest of my life.”

But the decision to discharge care home residents was a “shameful, unforgivable and criminal act”, according to the Scottish Labour leader.

Sarwar said it was “extraordinary and unthinking” to not accept the judgement of the High Court in the matter.

Government advisers were warning that it was “likely” asymptomatic transmission was possible but the policy was not dropped until around a month later and after the requirement to test new care home residents arriving from hospitals was introduced in England, he added.

Sturgeon said there was no “statistical evidence” the policy to release untested hospital patients into care homes was directly linked to Covid outbreaks, pointing to analysis from Public Health Scotland which found they were more likely linked to the size of the care homes themselves.

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No clear statistical evidence that discharges were linked to care home outbreaks, rather the size of care homes was more of a factor.

It comes after senior judges in England partially accepted a challenge by families bereaved by the virus who claimed the Government had failed to take into account the risk Covid could be passed on by people without symptoms, despite growing recognition this was the case.

While the SNP leader said she did “not accept” that the ruling cast a verdict on the Scottish Government’s position, she said families would find answers through an independent public inquiry to probe her government’s response to the pandemic.

She added: “We’re obviously aware of the High Court yesterday regarding decisions made by the UK Secretary of State for England.

“The guidance that was in place in Scotland was broadly similar to the guidance in England but not identical.

“This is not about not accepting a judgement … This was not a case about the situation in Scotland.”

Guidance in Scotland differed from that in England because of the requirement for care home residents to remain in their rooms and for a mandatory quarantine for new arrivals sooner than in England, said Sturgeon.

The pair also battled on the issue of whether families in Scotland would need to go through the courts to secure answers from the Government as they had in England.

Sturgeon said that Sarwar had “misrepresented” her by claiming the Government were leaving families to chase justice through the legal system.