Fury as Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet plotted to use Covid to boost independence | Politics | News

January 22, 2024
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Nicola Sturgeon‘s Cabinet plotted to use Covid to boost the drive for Scottish independence.

The SNP government said in March 2020 it had “paused” preparations for a second referendum to focus on tackling the pandemic.

But minutes from a Scottish Cabinet meeting on June 30 2020 released to the UK Covid Inquiry show ministers agreed that “consideration be given to restarting work on independence and a referendum”.

They said the case for breaking up the UK should be updated with the “arguments reflecting the experience of the coronavirus crisis and developments on EU exit”.

The Scottish Tories have tabled a question at Holyrood and demanded Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf explain the situation.

The party’s shadow constitution secretary Donald Cameron said: “This astonishing and shameful revelation from the UK Covid inquiry explains why Nicola Sturgeon and many of her senior colleagues were so keen to delete their WhatsApp messages.

“If a discussion on pushing their independence obsession was talked about around the cabinet table, we can only imagine the extent of the SNP’s crass constitutional opportunism on private messaging.

“The Scottish people are entitled to know why a government that assured us public safety was its sole focus was gaming its push for another independence referendum while the death toll mounted.

“Humza Yousaf was a senior figure around the cabinet table at the time. Did he voice any objections to this disgracefully skewed priority? If not, why not?

“I have this morning submitted a Topical Question on this. If it’s selected, I would urge the First Minister, in the interests of his own credibility and integrity, to respond on behalf of his government.

“The Scottish people deserve an explanation for the scandalous decision to focus on SNP political objectives during a public health emergency.”

The Scottish Cabinet minutes were published last Friday as the inquiry took evidence from Ken Thomson, who was then manager of the Scottish Government’s Covid Coordination Directorate.

Jamie Dawson KC, lead counsel for the inquiry’s module on Scotland, grilled him about claims the SNP government’s Covid response had been politicised to further the independence cause.

Mr Thomson rejected the claim and added: “The second way I hear that criticism is that somehow in her decisions the First Minister was seeking…to be different for the sake of being different to remind people that Scotland has the ability to take decisions on its own. And I also don’t agree with that.”

Mr Dawson then read out the Cabinet minutes about using the pandemic to boost independence.

Mr Thomson admitted “that runs slightly contrary to what I said in my previous answer”.

He added: “As we moved out of the lockdown restrictions, more of the ordinary business of the Scottish Government started to resume, including this bit.”



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