Nicola Sturgeon in spotlight: BBC receives hundreds of complaints over media briefings

Jason Leitch grilled on Scotland's 'eye-rolling' tier system

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The fortnightly report for the BBC complaints service revealed 244 complaints were received by BBC Scotland after the First Minister responded to questions concerning her predecessor. The Scottish Government have been holding daily COVID-19 briefing sessions, televised on the BBC, since March 2020.

Ms Sturgeon is joined by cabinet members and medical experts around three to four days a week.

However, the First Minister used the majority of a recent briefing to criticise her predecessor Alex Salmond, claiming he was peddling conspiracy theories.

The row surrounds whether Ms Sturgeon breached the Scottish Government ministerial code and lied to parliament over meetings between the pair in 2018 regarding unproven harassment claims made against the former First Minister.

Ms Sturgeon denied the allegations put forward by the former SNP leader.


Ms Sturgeon has also used the briefings to attack Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s trip to Scotland as “not essential”, but this occasion was not the subject of the complaints. 

She said there should not be one rule for the public and another for politicians such as the Prime Minister.

Former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars made a complaint to Scotland’s Permanent Secretary Lesley Evans, claiming Ms Sturgeon breached the Ministerial Code over the Salmond comments.

In a second letter to the First Minister this week, Mr Sillars said: “In choosing first to use the forum of a briefing on COVID public health matters, you breached the Code.”

The Scottish Conservatives said Ms Sturgeon should step down from fronting the briefings and be replaced by politically neutral public health officials such as National Clinical Director Jason Leitch.

The Tory calls were also raised as a recommendation from the Citizens Assembly of Scotland report.

Tory MSP Maurice Corry challenged Ms Sturgeon on the issue during First Minister’s Questions, and asked: “A key recommendation in the report produced by the Citizens’ Assembly last week is that it should be the health experts who lead the current daily Covid briefings held by the Scottish Government and not the politicians.

“Does the First Minister accept this recommendation from the Citizens’ Assembly?”

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Ms Sturgeon responded: “You see I struggle to work out what the Tories want.

“On one hand they’re always saying to me concentrate on COVID, concentrate on the day job and then on the other hand they’re saying stop doing daily briefings to give the people of Scotland the information that they need.

“In a public health crisis, it is important that people get politicians who stand up, take responsibility and are accountable, and that those politicians are joined by public health experts who add important information.



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“We are going into an election period, and I take very seriously my responsibility to ensure that the election is conducted properly and fairly.

“That will have implications for how we proceed with the Covid briefings during that period.”

The BBC said complainants would receive responses in due course whilst Ms Sturgeon denies Mr Sillars allegations.

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