‘Failure to take quick decisions leads to loss of life’: Sturgeon attacks PM over Cummings’ claims


Nicola Sturgeon attacked Boris Johnson today over England’s death toll today as she defended making short-notice decisions to fight the pandemic. 

The First Minister came under fire at Holyrood today over the amount of notice businesses were given of changes made during the lockdown, which often give them little time to prepare.

She used her First Minister’s Questions appearance to make an unveiled criticism of the Prime Minister over Mr Cummings’ bombshell claim yesterday that his dithering over lockdowns meant thousand of people died unnecessarily. 

Mr Cummings, the PM’s former right-hand-man, told MPs in a marathon evidence session that Mr Johnson presided over ‘chaos’ in Downing Street that prevented him acting sooner.

After criticism from the Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood today:  ‘We work as hard as we can and we work as closely as we can to give as much notice and detail of our response as possible.

‘But sometimes I’m afraid that in the interests of health and human life it is necessary for people in leadership positions like me to take very quick decisions because as we know from bitter experience over this pandemic, it’s often the failure to take quick and firm decisions that leads to loss of life.

‘Anybody who is in any doubt about that only had to listen to a fraction of what Dominic Cummings outlined about what he described as the ‘chaotic response’ of the UK government at key moments of this pandemic.

‘So I will continue to try to take difficult decisions as well as I possibly can.’

The First Minister came under fire at Holyrood today over the amount of notice businesses were given of changes made during the lockdown , which often give them little time to prepare.

She used her First Minister's Questions appearance to make an unveiled criticism of the Prime Minister over Mr Cummings' bombshell claim yesterday that his dithering over lockdowns meant thousand of people died unnecessarily.

She used her First Minister’s Questions appearance to make an unveiled criticism of the Prime Minister over Mr Cummings’ bombshell claim yesterday that his dithering over lockdowns meant thousand of people died unnecessarily.

Mr Cummings, the PM's former right-hand-man, told MPs in a marathon evidence session that Mr Johnson (pictured today) presided over 'chaos' in Downing Street that prevented him acting sooner.

Mr Cummings, the PM’s former right-hand-man, told MPs in a marathon evidence session that Mr Johnson (pictured today) presided over ‘chaos’ in Downing Street that prevented him acting sooner.

Launching a dramatic bid to bring down the Prime Minister yesterday, Mr Cummings blamed a toxic mix of complacency and indecision for the needless deaths.

He told MPs that senior ministers and advisers, including himself, had fallen ‘disastrously short’, adding: ‘When the public needed us most, the Government failed. Tens of thousands of people died, who didn’t need to die.’

In an extraordinary seven-hour performance, Mr Cummings launched vicious attacks on Mr Johnson, his fiancée Carrie Symonds and Health Secretary Matt Hancock over their personal conduct during the crisis. Mr Cummings claimed the Prime Minister had been ‘unfit’ for office when Covid struck and was not a ‘fit and proper person’ to lead Britain out of the pandemic.

He said the Prime Minister had dismissed Covid as a ‘scare story’, leading to delays in bringing in lockdowns, which cost many thousands of lives. And he claimed to have heard Mr Johnson rant that he would rather see dead bodies ‘piled high in their thousands’ than order a third lockdown last autumn – a claim the PM has denied.

The former Vote Leave boss also launched a blistering attack on Mr Hancock, accusing him of ‘criminal, disgraceful behaviour’.

Mr Hancock hit back today, telling the Commons that the government had been ‘straight with people’ about the challenges that coronavirus posed and the difficult decisions.

‘These unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true,’ he said. ‘I have been straight with people in public and in private throughout.’

Mr Hancock also dismissed Mr Cummings’ criticism of his testing target, saying it was ‘how you get stuff done in government’.

‘I am proud of everyone in my department,’ he said.

In a brutal swipe at the former aide, who was ousted from Downing Street in November, he said that people can see that over the past six months ‘governing has become a little easier and we have been able to deliver’.

When challenged by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross that Glasgow has now been under lockdown restrictions for 269 days, Ms Sturgeon replied: ‘I know how long the city of Glasgow has been under restrictions because unlike him I am a resident of the city of Glasgow so these restrictions apply to me just as they apply to others.

‘I know how difficult it is for residents and businesses across Glasgow but I also know how dangerous it would be if we eased restrictions too quickly and allowed a new variant of this virus, that we know is spreading perhaps even more quickly than the variant at the start of the year, to take a grip again.

‘That’s why there are the public health interventions under way across Glasgow right now… I said earlier in the week we see cautious signs for optimism that that is working, and we will continue to monitor that very carefully.’

As part of those measures, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has called on people living in the south of Glasgow aged 40 or over to visit a Covid-19 vaccination drop-in centre running at the Gurdwara in Pollokshields.

The centre is open from 11am to 6.30pm on Thursday and offers first doses or a second to those due to have it in the next eight to 12 weeks.

Two hundred appointments are available on a first come, first served basis.

While Glasgow remains in Level 3, an incident management team which was set up in Moray due to an outbreak there has now been closed with testing advice returning to normal.

Moray moved from Level 3 to Level 2 restrictions last weekend.

The region is now seeing its lowest Covid rates since before Christmas, with NHS Grampian deputy director of public health Chris Littlejohn saying: ‘The risk in Moray is now broadly the same as other Level 2 areas.

‘We need to remember this is still an infectious virus, with more transmissible variants being passed around in some parts of the country.

‘There is little certainty about how they affect serious illness, hospitalisation, long Covid and death.

‘We are heading into an uncertain summer but doing that as a country and Moray is now on a par with most of the country.’

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