Teary Nicola Sturgeon Admits Feeling ‘Overwhelmed’ During the Covid-19 Pandemic

LONDON (AP) — Scotland’s former leader in office during the Covid-19 pandemic choked up Wednesday when he admitted in a public inquiry into the outbreak that he sometimes doubted whether he wanted to be first minister at such a crucial time.

Nicola Sturgeon told the UK public inquiry into the pandemic that she sometimes felt “overwhelmed by the scale of the problems we face”, especially at the start of the pandemic in the first half of 2020. Although Scotland is part of the UK, its government has powers over matters related to it. with public health.

“I was first minister when this pandemic hit,” he said in Edinburgh. “There was a part of me that wished it didn’t happen, but I made it happen, and I want to be the best first minister.”

Nicola Sturgeon leaves UK Covid Inquiry.Nicola Sturgeon leaves UK Covid Inquiry.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Sturgeon, 53, became first minister in 2014 after Scotland voted to remain part of the UK in a referendum and served until her shock resignation in 2023.

Sturgeon has received a lot of praise for her handling of the pandemic. He is widely considered to be at the forefront of everything, and that is clear in his public statements, especially when compared with former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who led policy in Britain and gave evidence at the inquiry late last year.

The UK has one of the worst death rates related to Covid-19 during this pandemic, with around 235,000 deaths. The death toll in Scotland reached more than 18,000 people

However, Sturgeon’s reputation has taken a hit in recent months, particularly following her arrest in June over a police investigation into the finances of the pro-independence Scottish National Party. He has not been charged and insists he has done nothing wrong.

Sturgeon’s standing was further shaken by recent revelations of her deleted WhatsApp messages, raising questions about her credibility.

He admitted in the investigation that he deleted WhatsApp messages but insisted that he did not use informal messages such as WhatsApp to make decisions.

“During the pandemic I didn’t use informal messages much and certainly didn’t use them to make decisions,” he said.

Although Sturgeon acknowledged that WhatsApp had become “too common” in the Scottish government, Sturgeon said she exchanged WhatsApp with only a “handful” of people, and not members of any group.

He said he deleted the messages in line with official advice that they could contain messages if the phone was lost or stolen, and that key points were all recorded in company records.

The former first minister said he “always assumed there would be a public inquiry” and apologized for his lack of clarity at a public briefing in August 2021 where he said his WhatsApp would be handed over even though he knew it had been deleted.

Last week, Sturgeon’s replacement as first minister, Humza Yousaf, offered an “unreserved” apology for the Scottish government’s “frankly poor” handling of WhatsApp messaging requests. He has announced an external review of the government’s use of mobile messaging.

The inquiry is divided into four modules, with the current phase focusing on political decision-making around major developments, such as the timing of lockdowns. While the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have independent policies, the UK as a whole has often acted in concert, especially when it comes to lockdown decisions.

The inquiry, led by retired Judge Heather Hallett, is expected to take three years to complete, although an interim assessment will be made public.

Johnson agreed in late 2021 to hold a public inquiry after intense pressure from his bereaved family, who were furious at emerging evidence of his actions.

The lawyer representing the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, Aamer Anwar, said Sturgeon had given a “good performance” but his client was “very dissatisfied” with the explanation surrounding the deletion of the WhatsApp messages.

He said his group was considering calling for a criminal investigation into the actions of the former first minister and others.

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