THE Scottish Government did not restart work on independence during the Covid pandemic and to say otherwise is not “fair or accurate”, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The former first minister rejected allegations that her government had begun work on using the health crisis for political ends as she was shown minutes from a Cabinet meeting held on June 30, 2020 at the Covid Inquiry.

Jamie Dawson KC brought up the minutes, which said ministers had “agreed that consideration should be given to restarting work on independence and a referendum, with the arguments reflecting the experience of the coronavirus crisis and developments on EU Exit”.

Dawson asked Sturgeon if the document showed Scottish ministers had looked “to promote the cause of Scottish independence by politicising the pandemic”.

READ MORE: Official UK Covid Inquiry only follows 'DownWithTheSNP' account on Twitter

Responding, the former SNP leader said: “No, I respectfully don't think that is a fair or accurate reading of that.”

She added: “We agreed that consideration should be given to restarting work [on independence. In matter of fact, work did not restart. It was not consideration that led to that happening.

“That is the fact of the matter … In my mind, there was no prospect of starting work on independence at that time.”

Dawson (below) argued that the “words say what they say” and read the quote from the Cabinet minutes again.

The National:

Sturgeon responded: “I appreciate the words say what they say, I'm not arguing with that. But the facts also say what they say, which was that whatever consideration may or may not have been given, I certainly wasn't a part of it at that point.

“If somebody you know had come to me after that and ‘said right, OK, should we consider this and restart work”’, I’d have said absolutely not.

“The facts are that no work did restart on independence at that point.”

Heather Hallett, the chair of the Covid Inquiry, then cut in to ask about the minutes. She noted that it said Cabinet had “agreed”, and asked if Sturgeon would have overruled Cabinet.

READ MORE: SNP fire back at ‘grossly misleading’ Nicola Sturgeon burner phone claims

Sturgeon said: “‘Agreed that consideration should be given’. What I meant is if somebody had come to me afterwards and said, ‘we've done this process of consideration and we now think we should restart work on independence’, I would have said I don't want to do that.

“I would have said to Cabinet, ‘let's not do that because it's not the right time to do that’.

“But I think, more materially, that didn't happen.”

Dawson asked whether, if the inquiry were to conclude that the Scottish Government had been guilty of a “politicisation of the pandemic”, Sturgeon would agree that was a “considerable betrayal of the Scottish people”.

The former SNP leader replied: “With respect, I don't believe that conclusion would fairly be reached because it's not what I did and I don't believe there is evidence to suggest it.”

She added: “If I had at any point decided to politicise a global pandemic that was robbing people of their lives and livelihoods and educational opportunities and had decided, in the face of that to prioritise campaigning for independence, then, yes, it absolutely would have been, as you described, which is precisely why I didn't do it and wouldn't have done it.”

Elsewhere at the inquiry, the former first minister said that her chief regret was not locking down “a week, two weeks earlier” at the start of the pandemic.

Sturgeon became tearful at times while giving evidence in Edinburgh on Wednesday, including when saying a “large part” of her wishes she had not been Scotland’s first minister during the pandemic.

She said: “Of the many regrets I have, probably chief of those is that we didn’t lock down a week, two weeks, earlier than we did.”

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar called out as Labour back Liz Truss on unlimited bankers' bonuses

She denied making pandemic decisions for political reasons, adding she had not “thought less” about politics and Scottish independence in her life than she did during the pandemic.

“I was motivated solely by trying to do the best we could to keep people as safe as possible,” she added.

“We did that to some extent, but not to, and perhaps we never could have done it to the extent I would have wished we could have done.

“I carry the regret for the loss of life, the loss of opportunity, the loss of education of our young people, I carry that with me every single day.”