(Rex)

In the ongoing UK Covid Inquiry, Michael Gove has asserted that Nicola Sturgeon actively sought “political conflict” during the 2020 and 2021 Covid pandemic, based on messages exchanged between the First Minister and her former chief of staff, Liz Lloyd. Gove contended that these messages demonstrated a clear “desire to pursue differentiation for the sake of advancing a particular political agenda.”

During his testimony, Gove also acknowledged Kate Forbes, former Finance Secretary and ex-SNP leadership hopeful, as “one of the most constructive” ministers in the Scottish Government. The Tory minister, who acted as a liaison between Westminster and Holyrood for over a year during the pandemic, highlighted Forbes’ collaborative approach, told BBC.

The recent revelation of Lloyd expressing a desire for a “good old-fashioned rammy” with the UK Government to divert attention from pandemic-related challenges further fueled Gove’s argument. Lloyd had also set a “purely political” timetable for the UK Government’s response to the Scottish Government on furlough.

Gove interpreted these instances as evidence that the Scottish Government was leveraging the pandemic for political gain. He stated, “The language used, the desire to have a good old-fashioned rammy’ with the UK Government, and some of the other language used…does lead me to believe that at that point, there was a desire to pursue differentiation for the sake of advancing a particular political agenda.”

In his testimony, Gove also compared the working dynamics with various Scottish ministers, noting that Kate Forbes stood out as notably constructive. While avoiding specific references, he mentioned encountering political point-making from some ministers, contrasting it with Forbes’ focus on substantive discussions without unnecessary politicking.

As the inquiry delves into the intersection of politics and pandemic management, Gove’s testimony provides insights into the alleged political maneuvering within the Scottish Government during the critical period. Nicola Sturgeon is slated to appear at the UK Covid Inquiry on Wednesday, promising further revelations and discussions on the political dimensions of Scotland’s response to the pandemic.

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