The National:

A SCIENTIST has claimed Nicola Sturgeon snubbed his advice during the pandemic because of his “pro-Union” political stance ...

Hugh Pennington retired from his role as a professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen in 2003 and subsequently co-founded the “pro-UK campaign group” Scotland Matters.

In an article published by The Daily Mail, he claimed that he wrote to Sturgeon during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic to offer his advice but never received a reply.

“I thought I was well placed to help – especially as I was watching her chosen experts getting it wildly wrong on a daily basis,” he said.

“In fact, I was one of a number of experts I could name who I believe should have been approached for advice. It was so frustrating.

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“I was watching disaster unfold before my eyes, with so-called experts and politicians winging it on a daily basis, having been given bad advice.

“I can only come to the conclusion that Ms Sturgeon and her Government didn’t want my advice because of my pro-UK views. What other reason could there be?”.

Well, the Jouker could offer a few…

We “may never” get to the point of finding a vaccine – April 2020

During an appearance in-front of Holyrood’s Health Committee in April 2020, Pennington said he would “not be putting any money on” finding a vaccine.

"I think probably the best thing we can hope for is a vaccine or a set of vaccines which will be partially protective,” he said.

“And they may not work as well in the elderly because most vaccines don't.

"So to put all our money on a vaccine as the way we can end the current crisis I think will be a mistake, because we may never get to that point.”

However, by December 2020 a woman in Coventry became the first person in the UK to receive a Covid-19 vaccine after the Pfizer jab received clinical approval.

“No evidence” to suggest a second wave of the virus is coming – June 2020

In an article for The Telegraph published in June, 2020, Pennington said that he considered “the evidence supporting the notion of a second wave or peak of Covid-19 infections in the UK that would swamp the NHS is very weak”. He added that he was a “second-wave sceptic”.

During one her regular press conferences during the early days of the pandemic, Sturgeon was asked about Pennington’s analysis.

She said that the science suggested there “is a very real risk of a second wave” and was unsure upon what Pennington was basing his predictions.

In the Daily Mail article, Pennington maintains that he was correct in this assertion – although fails to provide any evidence to back this up.

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“She [Sturgeon] also criticised me when I said I didn’t think a second wave would be as serious as the first wave.

“At the end of the day, what I said proved to be correct.”

However, research by the Nuffield Trust found that the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland (and across the UK) proved to be more deadly than the first.

“Before Christmas we’ll pretty well have seen the virus off” – July 2020

Speaking to STV News in July 2020, Pennington said he was “reasonably optimistic that before Christmas we’ll pretty well have seen the virus off.”

Of course, this was not to be the case.

A new strain of the virus emerged in the south of England just before Christmas and resulted in harsher than expected restrictions on households over the festive period.

By January 20, the UK would record 1820 deaths in 24 hours – the highest since the pandemic began.


Pennington’s predictions about how the virus would progress were repeatedly incorrect.

Of course, listening to various scientific perspectives is valuable to any government and no scientist can be expected to predict the future.

But Pennington’s optimism wouldn’t have helped the Scottish Government plan for a deadlier wave of the virus.

Whether political or not, ignoring his advice proved more valuable to Scottish people than listening to it.