MATT Hancock has claimed Nicola Sturgeon forced the UK Government into a U-turn over face masks in schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The disgraced former UK health secretary made the allegations in an excerpt of his new book, serialised in the Mail on Sunday, and claimed the Westminster government introduced the measure for face coverings in schools because Sturgeon announced the policy in Scotland. 

Hancock claimed Tory ministers were "blindsided" by the FM's announcement in August 2020 and decided to U-turn in order to avoid "a big spat with the Scots". 

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In Pandemic Diaries: The inside story of Britain’s battle against Covid, Hancock also suggested Sturgeon would "build a Trump-style wall" between Scotland and the rest of the UK if she could.

Initially, the UK Government's guidance on face coverings excluded schools.

Hancock's diary entry for August 25 read: “Nicola Sturgeon blindsided us by suddenly announcing that when schools in Scotland reopen, all secondary school pupils will have to wear masks in classrooms.

“In one of her most egregious attempts at one-upmanship to date, she didn’t consult us. The problem is that our original guidance on face coverings specifically excluded schools.

“Cue much-tortured debate between myself, education secretary Gavin Williamson and No 10 about how to respond. Much as Sturgeon would relish it, nobody here wants a big spat with the Scots.

The National: Hancock claimed the FM's announcement on face masks forced Tory ministers to U-turnHancock claimed the FM's announcement on face masks forced Tory ministers to U-turn (Image: PA)

"So, U-turn it is.”

At the time, Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, claimed the government had changed tact and changed the guidance due to updated advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

In further diary entries, Hancock criticised Sturgeon's zero-Covid plan as "impossible" and "about as realistic as a bagpipe-playing unicorn", and her contribution to Cobra meetings.

In July 25 2020's entry, Hancock wrote: “In Cobra meetings, Nicola Sturgeon’s political games have become incredibly debilitating and significantly limit scope for open discussion.

"She sits like a statue, lips pursed like the top of a drawstring bag, only jolting into life when there’s an opportunity to say something to further the separatist cause.

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“The minute someone presses ‘end meeting’, you can almost hear her running for a lectern so she can rush out an announcement before we make ours.

"We now chew over big decisions elsewhere and relegate formal meetings to rubber-stamping exercises.”

And on May 4, a further diary entry read: “Tonight, Nicola Sturgeon announced a ‘summer push to elimination [of Covid]’, a policy which has about as much hope of working as Chairman Mao’s attempt to eliminate sparrows by getting the Chinese population to bang pots and pans.

“Much as I’m sure Nicola would love to build a Trump-style wall between her fiefdom and the rest of Great Britain, we’re all in this together.”

The National: Hancock lost the Tory whip for joining the reality TV showHancock lost the Tory whip for joining the reality TV show

A spokesperson for the SNP said: “Matt Hancock had little credibility even before he lost the last shreds of it in the jungle.

"These claims are more about selling books than revealing anything meaningful.”

Previously, the First Minister criticised Hancock for entering the reality TV show I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here, where he came third.

She said: "I think it's disgraceful. I'm not particularly interested in how he gets on in the jungle. 

"Most of my interactions with Matt, over the past few years, were when he was still UK Health Secretary during Covid and we are not properly out of Covid yet.

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"We certainly haven't had the full public inquiries that we need to have.

"To see him, I think, demeaning the office he used to hold and also do a real disservice to those whose lives have been impacted by Covid.

"I think it's the wrong decision. But there are many, many more important things for all of us to be focusing on right now than whatever Matt Hancock chooses to get up to."

The former health secretary lost the Tory whip for joining the TV show and faced criticism from his party and constituents. 

Hancock's book will be released on December 6, with royalties reportedly to be donated to NHS charities and "good causes relating to dyslexia".