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Covid inquiry live: Tearful Nicola Sturgeon says biggest Covid regret is not going into lockdown earlier

A tearful Nicola Sturgeon fought back tears as she revealed there were times during the pandemic she wished she hadn’t been first minister.

Giving evidence to the official inquiry, Ms Sturgeon was asked if she thought she was well suited to the role after heavily criticising Boris Johnson’s handling of the crisis.

She said: “I don’t think I’m betraying any secrets here when I thought Boris Johnson was the wrong person to be prime minister - full stop.

“I was the first minister when the pandemic struck. There’s a large part of me wishes that I hadn’t been”, she said as she became audibly and visibly upset.”

She added: “But I was and I wanted to be the best first minister I could be during that period. It’s for others to judge the extent to which I succeeded”.

Earlier, Ms Sturgeon admitted to the inquiry that she deleted her WhatsApp messages from the pandemic.

She initially said her messages “weren’t retained” rather than deleted but when Jamie Dawson KC asked her: “But did you delete them?” she conceded: “Yes, in the manner I have set out.”

Key Points

  • Ex-SNP leader fights back tears as she’s asked about suitability for crisis

  • Sturgeon admits she deleted pandemic-era WhatsApp messages

  • WhatsApp not used to make decisions during pandemic - Sturgeon

  • Sturgeon gives evidence to inquiry on decision-making and political governance

  • Former FM called Boris a ‘f****** clown’ in WhatsApps revealed by aide

16:10 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon has denied public health professor Devi Sridhar ran comments she intended to make to the media past her in order to ensure their positions were aligned.

Jamie Dawson KC put it to Ms Sturgeon that she “frequently” ran what she intended to say in the press and in press interviews by her to intend their positions were aligned.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The volume of professor Sridhar’s output would suggest that if she ever did that, it was on a very small number of occasions.”

Watch: Sturgeon tells Covid Inquiry her responsibility ‘was to Scottish people, not Boris Johnson’

16:04 , Matt Mathers

Sturgeon: My pandemic responsibility ‘was to Scottish people, not Boris Johnson’

Sturgeon: We followed ‘maximum supression’ strategy

15:58 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish government had a “maximum suppression” strategy.

She told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that the Scottish government’s strategy was to suppress the virus to the “lowest possible level”.

She said ministers used phraseology like “zero Covid” and elimination colloquially, but she said “emphatically” not eradication, which she said was a “very different concept”.

She added: “At no point was my belief that we would get Covid to a level where it was eliminated and went away.”

I should have been the ‘bigger person’ - Sturgeon on Boris tweet

15:55 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said she should have “been the bigger person” and refrained from sending a tweet addressing a visit by prime minister Boris Johnson in July 2020.

A tweet sent on July 23, 2020 read: “I welcome the PM to Scotland today.

“One of the key arguments for independence is the ability of Scotland to take our own decisions, rather than having our future decided by politicians we didn’t vote for, taking us down a path we haven’t chosen. His presence highlights that.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “On reflection, should I have risen to the bait and posted that tweet? Probably not.”

Concerns raised that Spain could block independent Scotland bid to EU if restrictions remained

15:49 , Matt Mathers

There was concern the Spanish government would block an independent Scotland from joining the EU if travel restrictions during the pandemic remained, the inquiry has heard.

An email – copied to the first minister and a number of senior Government figures – sent on July 19 from the email address of then deputy first minister John Swinney, but signed off by someone named Scott, said he was “extremely concerned” about travel restrictions remaining on the country when there was a “point prevalence rate of 0.015”.

“There is visible action from the Spanish authorities to do whatever it takes to suppress outbreaks (compare and contrast with outbreaks in England),” the email continued.

“It won’t matter how much ministers might justify it on health grounds, the Spanish government will conclude it is entirely political; they won’t forget; there is a real possibility they will never approve EU membership for an independent Scotland as a result.”

Discussing the email at the inquiry, the former first minister said: “These are decisions that were taken for public health reasons that were difficult decisions.”

Sturgeon: Not locking down sooner is one of my main regrets

15:17 , Matt Mathers

One of Nicola Sturgeon’s main regrets from the pandemic is not locking down earlier in 2020, she told the inquiry.

The former first minister 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.”

Ms Sturgeon went on to deny the decisions she took during the pandemic were done 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.”

Sturgeon denies politicising pandemic to further independence cause

15:15 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon has denied she and other cabinet ministers tried to politicise the Covid pandemic to further the cause of Scottish independence.

The former first minister was shown minutes from a cabinet meeting in June 2020 in which she and other members of the government “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.”

When asked if the cabinet had agreed to seek to promote the cause of Scottish independence by politicising the pandemic, Mr Sturgeon said: “I, respectfully, don’t think that is a fair or accurate reading of that paragraph.”

Westminster government was outlier among four nations in decision-making

15:10 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said the UK government was “often the outlier” when it came to four-nation decision-making with regards to the pandemic.

She said the UK government had styled itself as the “orthodox position” on decision-making.

Ms Sturgeon told the inquiry that was not the right way of looking at it because Northern Ireland and Wales often joined Scotland, and the UK Government “often became the outlier”.

I was never trying to steal a march on anyone, Sturgeon says

15:07 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon was “just trying to do my job to the best of my ability” during the pandemic, the inquiry heard.

The former first minister was being questioned about announcing coronavirus measures before the UK government, something she said was not designed to “annoy” Westminster.

“At no point in my thinking was I trying to steal a march on anybody else or trying to get ahead of it,” she said.

“I was simply trying to do my job to the best of my ability.”

Ms Sturgeon added that if she were to seek to not “irritate” former prime minister Boris Johnson, she would have had to agree to do “whatever Boris Johnson wanted me to do”.

I did not breach confidentiality when announcing ban on mass gatherings

14:55 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted she did not breach UK government confidentiality when she announced a Scottish government ban on mass gatherings.

She was asked by Jamie Dawson KC if she had a duty of confidentiality as regards to matters discussed at the meetings.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I did not breach confidentiality. I am not bound by confidentiality in the UK government sense, these were Scottish government decisions.

“I was not breaching confidentiality and I would go further than that and suggest that given the situation we were dealing with, the whole notion of confidentiality is a bit absurd.

“This was a virus that was spreading rapidly at this point. We were taking decisions that were about trying to stem the spread of that virus.”

UK government was too slow communicating Covid rules, Sturgeon suggests

14:52 , Matt Mathers

The UK government may have communicated coronavirus measures “too slowly” rather than the Scottish government doing so too quickly, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The former first minister had been accused throughout the pandemic of attempting to undermine the UK government by announcing decisions made on a four-nations basis before Boris Johnson was able to.

Ms Sturgeon announced a ban on mass gatherings at 3.20pm on March 12 2020 following a Cobra meeting, the inquiry heard.

She told the inquiry her responsibility was “to the Scottish people, not Boris Johnson”.

“I would put it that I communicated these things quickly, perhaps the UK government were communicating them too slowly.”

She added: “Doing so with urgency at that point was required.”

Sturgeon denies ‘jumping the gun’ on move to ban mass gatherings

14:49 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon has denied that she “jumped the gun” on a decision to ban mass gatherings in March 2020.

She said the Scottish government were “perfectly within our rights to take that decision” and she was “perfectly within my right” to announce the decision.

Earlier this week, Michael Gove told the Covid-19 inquiry that he believed Ms Sturgeon had jumped the gun on the move, but Ms Sturgeon told the inquiry she would “counter” that and that they were “going more slowly than we should have been”.

She said if she had a regret about the decision, it was that it had not been taken earlier.

Ex-FM rejects suggestion her government was ‘asleep at the wheel’ in February 2020

14:46 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon has rejected the assertion the Scottish government was “asleep at the wheel” in February 2020.

Minutes from a cabinet meeting at the end of that month showed Covid-19 was raised in the “any other business” section of the meeting, with Ms Sturgeon said to be chairing a meeting of the Scottish government Resilience Room (SGoRR) later that day.

The former first minister was asked by lead counsel to the inquiry why the Scottish government had not raised specific issues during the cabinet meeting.

Asked if the government was “asleep at the wheel”, Ms Sturgeon said: “No.”

Sturgeon: Notes suggesting unpreparedness would have been taken seriously

14:43 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said notes that had been taken by civil servant Derek Grieve which suggested there was a lack of preparedness and urgency within the Scottish government would have been taken seriously at the time.

Mr Grieve made the notes in March 2020 which showed Scottish government officials discussing “internal Scottish government communications”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I didn’t know about these views at the time, Derek Grieve is a civil servant that I have worked with in various capacities over my time in government. Again, you know, he is a civil servant of the utmost professionalism, so I would have taken seriously what he said.”

But, Ms Sturgeon said, it had not been her experience at the time that there was a lack of preparedness.

Sturgeon explains why she didn’t attend top level meeting

14:40 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said her attendance at a table-top exercise for pandemic preparedness called Operation Nimbus should “possibly” have been prioritised given the emerging threat.

She was asked by Jamie Dawson KC why she did not attend the meeting. Ms Sturgeon said she did not think it was “high up” her awareness level.

Mr Dawson asked: “Should either you or Ms Freeman have attended an event which sought to update pandemic planning?”

Ms Sturgeon said she was not aware she would be asked about Operation Nimbus, and she would have to review the detail of Nimbus to give a hindsight answer to whether she should have been there.

She added that public health minister Joe FitzPatrick attending would have been normal.

 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

Chief medical officer resignation did not undermine relationships with health officials, Sturgeon says

14:35 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said she did not feel Catherine Calderwood’s resignation “undermined” ongoing relationships with the team that remained in place.

Jamie Dawson KC asked Ms Sturgeon: “Did that experience (of Dr Calderwood’s resignation) to any extent undermine the ongoing relationships with the team that remained in place?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “Certainly not in my experience and I genuinely don’t think that was the case. We very quickly moved to an adapted way of working.”

She said there were difficulties over the next few days but they were able to overcome the disruption quickly.

‘Huge sense of betryal’ over SNP handling of Covid - Labour’s Scotland leader

14:31 , Matt Mathers

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said that there is a “huge sense of betrayal” among the public after Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence at the Covid inquiry.

He told reporters: “There is such a huge sense of betrayal, amongst the Scottish public.

“Nicola Sturgeon was someone that, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum, they looked at during the Covid pandemic, particularly in contrast to Boris Johnson, and thought this was someone that was standing up, telling the truth and being straight up with them and trying to navigate the best way through the pandemic.

“And I think there has been such a huge breach of that trust now, and such a sense of betrayal, that is going to rightfully anger so many people across the country.

“The anger with Boris Johnson was the whole, in her own words, he was a clown, he was an idiot, he didn’t know what he was doing. No one makes that accusation of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. They knew what they were doing.”

He accused the SNP of having a “culture of secrecy and coverup”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has called for answers (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has called for answers (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

I feared there could be disruption after resignation of chief medical officer

14:21 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon feared the “disruption” that could be caused by the resignation of former chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood.

Dr Calderwood left the role after it emerged she made a trip to her holiday home in Fife, breaching lockdown regulations.

The former first minister told the inquiry she had initially tried to keep Dr Calderwood in post.

“I was mindful of how disruptive it would be to suddenly in those circumstances lose a chief medical officer,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon said she initially wanted to achieve two things; quell public anger and retain the “very valuable expertise” of Dr Calderwood.

Over the course of the day after the story broke, however, it became clear to both Ms Sturgeon and Dr Calderwood that she would have to resign.

Sturgeon: I had no concerns that medical adviers were ‘not sufficiently expert'

13:58 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon has said she had no concerns her senior medical advisers were “not sufficiently expert” at the start of the pandemic.

Former chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood is trained in obstetrics, while national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch’s background and current Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith was initially a GP.

But Ms Sturgeon said: “The advice I got from all of these individuals, not just initially, but in the case of two of them over the course of the pandemic, I had a high degree of confidence and trust and I think that confidence and trust was justified.”

Ms Sturgeon added that at no point did she feel she “was not getting good advice”.

‘Not unreasonable'

13:40 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said it was “not unreasonable” to keep information about a Covid-19 outbreak from a Nike conference in late February 2020 from the public.

She told the inquiry she did not want to publicise details about the cases due to advice on concerns about patient confidentiality she had received from chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood.

She said she accepted the advice from Dr Calderwood because she did not think it was “unreasonable”.

She added: “I don’t think when that did surface, I don’t think it did undermine confidence in public messaging, I can see now that it had the potential to do that and I would not have wanted to take that risk.”

Up to government to decide how much testing done outside of pandemics - Sturgeon

13:20 , Matt Mathers

Governments will have to consider its “baseline” level of testing and contact tracing in place outside of pandemics, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The former first minister said the ramping up of the infrastructure was not as quick as she would have liked in the early part of the pandemic but she acknowledged there were “practical constraints”.

“I think governments now have to reflect with foresight is the level of testing and contact tracing infrastructure that is kept in place outside pandemic periods.

“It is very costly to do that, but we certainly suffered from not having greater baseline capacity at the start of 2020.”

Ms Sturgeon went on to say there should be a greater baseline in place, later clarifying that her reference to costs should not be a “priority” over saving lives.

Sturgeon: I preferred to have meetings with only key people in them

13:00 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon told the inquiry she did “not have a great deal of patience” with the idea of “everybody” wanting to be in the room.

Ms Sturgeon said there was a “tendency” at point where there were a “cast of thousands” who wanted to be in the room to hear what was being said, whether they wanted to be there or not.

She said: “I didn’t have a great deal of patience with that, I wanted the right people, by that I mean whether I liked them or not, I meant with the right expertise and ability to and experience to and knowledge to offer around the table.”

She said that a text message sent from national clinical director Jason Leitch to Humza Yousaf saying “she actually wants none of us” was a reference to that idea.

Scottish govt knew Covid was ‘very’ serious in late January 2020 - Sturgeon

12:50 , Matt Mathers

The Scottish government knew Covid-19 was something to “be very worried about” in late January 2020, Nicola Sturgeon said.

She said: “The concern was increasing and mounting as we went through late January into February and certainly as we got to the end of February into March, it was ever higher.

“But we had a strong sense from the latter part of January that this was something to be very worried about.”

The former first minister said the first cabinet discussion relating to Covid-19 was on February 4 2020.

Sturgeon denies using Covid crisis for political purposes

12:43 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said claims the Scottish government used the pandemic for political purposes are “not the case”, Adam Forrest reports.

Asked about Michael Gove’s accusation the Scottish government of seeking "political conflict” during the pandemic.

But asked about such accusations, Ms Sturgeon said: “The idea that in those horrendous days, weeks, I was thinking of political opportunity” was “not the case”.

“At times in those early days, I felt overwhelmed by the scale of what we were dealing with and perhaps more than anything, I felt an overwhelming responsibility to do the best I could.”

She added: “I didn’t see an opportunity of any description … The idea that in those horrendous days, weeks, I was thinking of a political opportunity … Well, it wasn’t true.”

Sturgeon fights back tears as she’s asked if she was right leader for Covid crisis

12:27 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon fought back tears as she was asked whether she was the right leader to guide Scotland through the pandemic.

She was asked if she thought she was well suited to the role after having heavily criticised Boris Johnson.

She said: “I don’t think I’m betraying any secrets here when I thought Boris Johnson was the wrong person to be prime minister - full stop.

“I was the first minister when the pandemic struck. There’s a large part of me wishes that I hadn’t been”, she said as she became audibly and visibly upset.

“But I was and I wanted to be the best first minister I could be during that period. It’s for others to judge the extent to which I succeeded”.

 (The Independent)
(The Independent)
 (The Independent)
(The Independent)

Sturgeon denies trying to hide details of meetings

12:08 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon rejected an accusation that the Scottish government “does not like light” to be shone on discussions it had during the pandemic.

In an exchange about so-called “gold command” meetings chaired by Ms Sturgeon during her time in Bute House and senior ministers at the time where no minutes were taken, lead counsel to the inquiry Jamie Dawson KC asked if there was a “theme” developing where her government sought to hide discussions at the meetings.

“No – I would very, very strongly refute that,” the former first minister said.

“I have look at all of the cabinet papers and minutes over that whole period – it runs to thousands of pages.”

Those pages, she said, don’t simply record the decision made, but the rationale behind the decisions.

 (via REUTERS)
(via REUTERS)

Sturgeon: I didn’t have carte blanche to make decisions

12:02 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said she did not have “carte blanche” to make decisions within the Scottish cabinet.

She told the inquiry: I was not given carte blanche to take any decision I wanted to take.

“Cabinet would say to me we want to do this assuming the data supports it, and I would look at that and make that final decision.

Jamie Dawson KC said: “I would put it to you that you had incredibly wide discretion to decide on anything.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I would not have latitude to depart from the strategic framework not would I have wanted to. No one would take solely on to their own shoulders the decisions being made, so I don’t think the characterisation of that is accurate.”

She was asked by Jamie Dawson KC if it was the case that cabinet was a decision ratifying body rather than a decision-making body. She said: “No that’s not the case.”

Watch: Nicola Sturgeon admits she deleted her WhatsApp messages during Covid inquiry

12:00 , Matt Mathers

£100m discussion with Yousaf not indicative of how government business was conducted - Sturgeon

11:50 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon insisted a cabinet meeting where Humza Yousaf offered to find £100 million from the health budget was not indicative of how her government business was conducted.

Ms Sturgeon was asked about a cabinet meeting where a discussion took place about finding an additional £100 million in December 2021 for business support.

The former first minister said she was “unhappy” with Mr Yousaf’s actions because he felt it did a “disservice” to former finance secretary Kate Forbes and “took the feet from under her”.

She told the inquiry Humza Yousaf had sent her a WhatsApp message about it a few weeks previously and she had told him to “speak to Kate (Forbes) about it”.

Sturgeon: I used personal phone to conduct government business

11:39 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon told the UK Covid-19 inquiry that she used a personal phone to conduct government business.

She said she used a personal phone because she did not want to use multiple devices, due to the risks associated with losing a phone.

Jamie Dawson KC put it to her if it was appropriate to do that not on a government-issued phone.

Ms Sturgeon said it had never been suggested to her that it was not appropriate.

Watch: Public servants made light-hearted comments to get them through the day

11:33 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said she deleted her WhatsApp messages

11:32 , Sam Rkaina

Nicola Sturgeon has admitted that she deleted her WhatsApp messages from the pandemic.

The former First Minister told the inquiry that it was “not my style and it’s never been my practice” to use WhatsApp “because it’s not a helpful process in reaching decisions”.

While she initially said her messages “weren’t retained” rather than deleted, when Jamie Dawson KC asked her: “But did you delete them?” she conceded: “Yes, in the manner I have set out.”

‘On reflection perhaps I shouldn’t have done that'

11:23 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said she “perhaps shouldn’t have” given professor Devi Sridhar an SNP email address.

The inquiry saw messages between the pair where Ms Sturgeon gave prof Sridhar an SNP email address as well as a Scottish government email address.

She said: “On reflection perhaps I shouldn’t have done that.

“But if I had been in any way trying to direct her to a private email address, I doubt if I would have put my government email address in there as well.”

Messages show official being told to delete messages

11:16 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said she was not “particularly conscious” of WhatsApp groups where officials were exchanging information.

She said she had “never seen messages before” in which Ken Thomson reminded civil servants in the group chat where the “clear chat” function was and that “plausible deniability is my middle name”.

Ms Sturgeon said she saw the discussion as “light-hearted” and that she would read that as him reminding people to be professional on WhatsApp.

She added that the civil servants in the Covid outbreak group chat were public servants of the “utmost integrity”.

Sturgeon discussed restaurant curfew with top aide on WhatsApp

11:12 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon discussed a curfew for hospitality venues with one of her top aides, messages shown to the Covid inquiry reveal.

The former first minister discussed a 6pm curfew for restaurants in parts of Scotland with Liz Lloyd, who served as her chief of staff at the time.

“Ok we should prob stick with 6 - it’s all so random. But I think we need to be prepared for a bit of a backlash”, she wrote in one of the messages.

She was responding to a message from ms Lloyd, which said: “That’s why I would stick with 6pm. But if you want to compromise it would be about giving people regulated places to be in the winter, rather than unregulated homes - but no alcohol because it changes behaviour.”

Decisions could not have been kept secret even if i wanted them to - Sturgeon

11:07 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said that Scottish government decisions made during the pandemic could not be kept secret, even if ministers had wanted to.

She said: “I would like to give an assurance to the inquiry that contrary to any desire on the part of me or my government to keep things secret, I would suggest the opposite was the case during the pandemic.

“We went to great lengths to communicate, not just the decisions – I took a view very early on in the pandemic, it’s for others to judge whether it was right or wrong, that if we were to achieve a level of compliance with the restrictions that we were to achieve a level of compliance with the restrictions we were asking them to do but why we were doing it.”

‘Having a crisis of decision making’

11:01 , Matt Mathers

WhatsApp messages exchanged between Nicola Sturgeon and her former chief of staff Liz Lloyd show Ms Sturgeon telling Ms Lloyd she was “having a crisis of decision making” over hospitality.

Ms Sturgeon told the inquiry it was something she would have “preferred not to be” on the public record.

The messages between Ms Sturgeon and Ms Lloyd show in-depth discussion about what times to allow restaurants to stay open until.

Ms Sturgeon wrote: “I am having a bit of a crisis in decision making in hospitality, not helped by the fact I haven’t slept. The public health argument says stick with 6pm/no alcohol for level 3. But I suspect the industry will go mad – and I worry we could derail debate.”

Ms Sturgeon also said there was “nothing to show” that they had listened to industry on the matter.

Sturgeon: Impact of decisions will stay with me forever

10:57 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said the impact of decisions she made throughout the Covid-19 pandemic will stay with her forever.

She said she wanted to ensure that “those who come after me in politics have the benefit of the learning, the things my government did right and the things that my government that were not right or with hindsight that we wish we had done differently.

“I cannot say strongly enough how important that is to me.

“These decisions were of a magnitude beyond what I had ever experienced, and that is true of decision-makers everywhere and the impact of them I think about literally every day.

“I want this inquiry and the Scottish inquiry to scrutinise those decisions so that we can learn and future governments can learn lessons from them.”

 (PA)
(PA)

I didn’t get email about retaining relevant material - Sturgeon

10:50 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon said she did not recall receiving an email from Lesley Fraser and Kenneth Thomson about the importance of record retention of material relevant to the work of the inquiry.

Ms Sturgeon was asked by senior counsel to the inquiry, Jamie Dawson, if she recalled receiving that email on August 3 2021.

She answered: “I do not as far as I am aware, I did not receive that.”

Mr Dawson asked: “You recall, I would imagine, in a general sense that such a notification was sent out?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “I would say this: that I don’t think I would have required to see that to know that matters that were relevant to know the matters that were relevant.”

The former first minister said she had “always assumed there would be a public inquiry”.

Watch: There was no secret course of discussion during Covid pandemic

10:40 , Matt Mathers

I only used informal messages to discuss decisions, Sturgeon says

10:34 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon has said she did make use of informal messaging but only to discuss Covid decisions that might be taken.

“There would be an element of reflection”, she told the official inquiry. “Reflecting on the decisions that we were having to make.

“But I was doing that openly - in daily briefings with the public - so I would not be reflecting in any way where I was...I suppose engaging in some secret course of discussion”.

Sturgeon: ‘High degree of formality’ in decision-making

10:26 , Matt Mathers

There was a “high degree of formality” in Covid-era decision-making by Scottish ministers, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The former first minister said she very “rarely” used informal messaging to conduct government business.

She said that all matters of “substance” were recorded in official channels.

“There was a high degree of formality around the decision-making of the Scottish government,” she said.

Sturgeon insists government acted with transparency

10:14 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that she and her government acted with “transparency” and openness during the Covid pandemic.

The former FM was read out a section of her statement to the inquiry in which she said Holyrood ministers acted in a formal and “serious” manner.

In her statement, Ms Sturgeon also said she did not make “extensive use” of informal messages to reach decisions during this time - as it has been claimed that the Westminster government did.

When asked if it was still her position today that the Scottish government was “open, transparent and accountable” in their actions and words, she replied: “Yes, that is still my position.”

Sturgeon about to give evidence

10:02 , Matt Mathers

Ms Sturgeon is about to start giving evidence to the Covid inquiry.

We’ll bring you text updates from the session but you can also watch it on our YouTube channel.

Just follow the link below for the live stream:

Watch live as Nicola Sturgeon faces questions at UK Covid inquiry

Sturgeon arrives at inquiry

09:53 , Matt Mathers

Nicola Sturgeon has been spotted arriving at the Covid inquiry ahead of her day of giving evidence.

The former first minister was pictured earlier this morning getting out of a dark-coloured car at Edinburgh’s International Conference Centre.

She was wearing a navy outfit and accompanied by her security team.

 (EPA)
(EPA)
 (EPA)
(EPA)
 (EPA)
(EPA)

Recap: Sturgeon’s pandemic WhatsApp messages deleted, Covid inquiry hears

09:45 , Matt Mathers

All of former SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s pandemic-era WhatsApp messages have been deleted, the Covid public inquiry has heard.

At a hearing in Edinburgh, the official investigation into the Covid crisis was told that the former first minister of Scotland had “retained no messages whatsoever”.

Jamie Dawson KC, counsel to the inquiry, revealed a document provided by the Scottish government about which WhatsApp messages it could provide and said that all Ms Sturgeon’s messages had been deleted.

Full report:

All Nicola Sturgeon’s pandemic WhatsApp messages deleted, Covid inquiry hears

ICYMI: Sturgeon called Boris a ‘f****** clown’ over ‘utter incompetence’ in handling Covid, WhatsApps reveal

09:44 , Matt Mathers

Scotland’s former first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, called Boris Johnson a “f***ing clown” at the time of the second Covid lockdown, bombshell messages have revealed.

WhatsApp messages shared between the ex-SNP leader and her top adviser, Liz Lloyd, shown at the Covid inquiry demonstrated the utter disdain with which the then-prime minister was held.

Full report:

Nicola Sturgeon called Boris Johnson a ‘f***ing clown’, Covid WhatsApps reveal

Sturgeon could also face questions about asking health chief to contact her ‘privately'

09:43 , Matt Mathers

Ms Sturgeon may also face questions about her decision to provide public health expert professor Devi Sridhar with her SNP email address to be contacted “privately”.

It is understood Ms Sturgeon forwarded any such emails to the Scottish government and offered to supply the inquiry with them if required.

Former Scottish government ministers Kate Forbes and John Swinney gave evidence to the inquiry on Tuesday.

Mr Swinney said he “manually” deleted messages between himself, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Yousaf in a practice which could date back to 2007.

 (PA)
(PA)

09:37 , Matt Mathers

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the Covid inquiry.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s former first minister, is giving evidence today at hearings being held in Edinburgh.

Stay tuned for all the latest updates.