A SENIOR Tory minister launched an attack on Scotland as he looked to defend comments made by Boris Johnson during the pandemic.

During an interview with the BBC, Health Secretary Steve Barclay was asked about the ex-PM’s suggestion that he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than impose another lockdown.

Giving evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry, former chief of staff and long-term Johnson ally Lord Udny-Lister confirmed he heard the then-PM say he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than enforce another lockdown during a meeting in September 2020.

“While this was an unfortunate turn of phrase, it should be born (sic) in mind that by this point the Government was trying to avoid a further lockdown given the already severe impact on the economy and education,” Udny-Lister said.

The National: Boris Johnson

Johnson (above) has denied making the statement on a number of occasions.

Confronted with these remarks on BBC Breakfast, Barclay said: “As I say we’ve got an inquiry because it’s easy for things to be taken out of context or to be relayed in a particular way that may be at odds with the way it was said or the context of things at the time. I obviously wasn’t there.

“But we’ve got an inquiry to look at these issues to get to the bottom of it. The fact there’s still such a debate as to whether there should have been more lockdowns or whether there were too many lockdowns and it damaged education, it had wider impacts in the health system illustrates that these were very difficult decisions often taken on data, on information that was involving not a full picture of information at the time. So these were complicated issues.

Barclay continued: “If you look at the outcomes from the period with Covid, we had the fastest vaccination rollout, we actually had better outcomes for example than Scotland.

“I hear very little scrutiny and media attention to the performance in Scotland compared to that in England.

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“So it’s important that we have an inquiry that will look at for example the performance in England compared to other areas that will ensure these things are not taken out of context.”

Michael Gove video

Following Lord Udny-Lister’s statement to the inquiry, a video has re-emerged of Stephen Flynn challenging Michael Gove on the comments.

However, Gove denied that Johnson said he wanted to “let the bodies pile high”.

He said: “The idea that he [Johnson] would say any such thing I find incredible. I was in that room, I never heard language of that kind and I’m afraid that the honourable gentlemen by seeking to make the points in the way that he does I think diverts attention from the fact that so many people who have been affected by this pandemic rely on the government, the NHS and others to strain every sinew.”