Dominic Cummings should admit he broke lockdown rules and correct the “unfair” suggestion that parents who followed the guidance “didn’t act like good parents”, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Ms Sturgeon urged Scots to continue obeying the lockdown while acknowledging people would be wondering “why bother?” after allegations the Prime Minister’s aide flouted the rules.
On Sunday, Boris Johnson said Mr Cummings had “acted responsibly, legally and with integrity” by driving from London to Durham with his child and infected wife to self-isolate, and that “any parent would frankly understand what he did”.
But the First Minister said that many parents listening to Mr Johnson’s claims would have got the impression that they could and should have taken similar decisions.
Asked at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing about news Mr Cummings was going to make a statement about his actions, Ms Sturgeon said he should apologise.
The First Minister also said she wanted him to “concede that he made a mistake that he didn’t follow the rules and, instead of trying to retrospectively rewrite those rules, to admit he made a mistake and apologise for that”.
“There are lots of detailed questions about his account and the account that was given afterwards by his wife of his isolation that to me don’t really seem to tally up,” she added.
“I think a simple recognition that – for many people hearing the Prime Minister last night say that he acted appropriately and was following the instinct of any parent – a lot of parents will have heard that as suggesting that by following the rules they didn’t act like good parents.
“I think that is really, really unfair and perhaps correcting that suggestion and that impression would be something that he should consider doing.”
In her opening statement at Monday’s briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: “I know that many of you will be feeling angry and frustrated about stories you’ve heard over the last couple of days and perhaps wondering ‘why bother?’.
“I understand that, but I want to stress that as far as I’m concerned, the restrictions and rules that we put in place really matter.
“It’s vital that all of us stick to these rules, and not just because people tell you to or ask you to.
“The reason we asked you to stick to these rules is because they help to protect you and your loved ones, they help us to protect our national health service, and they do help us to save lives.”
Earlier, Ms Sturgeon accused the Prime Minister of choosing “political interest ahead of the public interest” because refusing to sack his political adviser was jeopardising public health messaging.
She told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I’m very concerned and – I say this with a very heavy heart – I really do fear that Boris Johnson has decided to put political interest ahead of the public interest.
“The consequences of that are potentially very serious.
“Trust in public health messaging is very important and arguably, as we go into the phases where we start to lift lockdown, that becomes even more important because we rely less on the letter of the law, and much more on guidance and appealing to people’s good judgment.”
I know it is tough to lose a trusted adviser at the height of crisis, but when itâs a choice of that or integrity of vital public health advice, the latter must come first. Thatâs the judgment I and, to her credit, Catherine Calderwood reached. PM and Cummings should do likewise.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 24, 2020
Drawing comparisons between Mr Cummings’s situation and that of Scotland’s former chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood, who breached the guidance with two visits to her second home, she said: “I didn’t defend (Dr Calderwood’s) breach of the guidelines, I didn’t try to retrofit the guidance.
“She recognised she’d made a mistake and apologised. I made an argument to the public at that time that she’d made a mistake but her advice was so important, given what we were dealing with, that she should stay in office.
“But when it became clear to me that the public, understandably, were not prepared to accept that, I judged that integrity of the public health message was more important and actually, to her great credit, so did Catherine Calderwood.”