How Nicola Sturgeon has used the pandemic to boost her own popularity

Nicola Sturgeon’s pandemic: From gazumping ministers to announce lockdown measures first and threatening to quarantine English visitors to Scotland to using Westminster cash to boost her popularity and independence fight

  •  The SNP leader has consistently out-maneuvered Boris Johnson’s Government
  • Currently riding high in polls off the back of daily publicity during the crisis 
  • She is also credited with measured that relied on billions in Westminster cash
  • But she is facing heat over timing of France quarantine cut-off on Saturday 

Nicola Sturgeon’s interference in UK-wide quarantine measures, meaning tens of thousands more Britons face a fortnight self-isolating, is the latest example of the Scottish First Minister elbowing in at the top table.

As many as half a million face a rush back across the Channel tonight or resigning themselves to being holed up for two weeks, after she demanded that France be added to the UK’s quarantine list tomorrow at 4am instead of Sunday. 

Because of the Scot’s insistence travellers have 24 fewer hours to get home and could find themselves unable to work when they get back.    

The SNP leader has consistently out-maneuvered Boris Johnson’s Government during the coronavirus pandemic.

She is currently riding high in the opinion polls off the back of daily publicity during the crisis – and a healthy dose of Westminster cash.

She had a net rating of plus 50 in the latest YouGov study, up from plus 5 a year ago. By contrast Boris Johnson’s rating is minus 50, having slumped by 16 points over the past 12 months.

The polls also show majority support for independence six years after the referendum which was won by No by 55-45.

Weeks after the UK Government dropped its daily news briefings on coronavirus, Ms Sturgeon is still benefiting from daily exposure on television. 

The SNP leader has consistently out-maneuvered Boris Johnson’s Government during the coronavirus pandemic but finds herself in hot water. The two leaders are pictured meeting in Edinburgh in July 2019

Weeks after the UK Government dropped its daily news briefings on coronavirus, Ms Sturgeon is still benefiting from daily exposure on television

She previously used the lunchtime appearance to regularly gazump Mr Johnson and his ministers when they lined up announcements on UK-wide decisions in the evening. 

Among them have been announcements on extending lockdown, and later on measures to allow several members of households to meet indoors as lockdown was eased. 

As far back as April she used an appearance to declare that the lockdown would stay in place for ‘at least’ another three weeks –  hours before a crunch meeting of Cobra, where the official decision was to be taken.

Scotland – along with Wales – have also in recent weeks announced quarantine implementations against other nations before they can be announced by Westminster –  despite all four nations’ chief medical officers meeting together to decide plans of action. 

Polls suggest she is credited with many positive actions that were actually planned and funded in Westminster.

YouGov research this week found the SNP leader and her ministers are widely praised for support packages for jobs and businesses – even though they have largely been provided by the Treasury.

In the poll for The Times, 49 per cent of Scots said the government north of the border had performed well in protecting jobs, with 29 per cent saying it had done badly. 

Half were positive about work done by the executive to protect the economy compared with 31 per cent who had a negative view. 

However, while Ms Sturgeon’s administration does have powers to vary business rates and income tax, key decisions on VAT, National Insurance and tax allowances are still reserved for Westminster.

The massive furlough scheme – which has subsidised the wages of 155,000 Scots – was designed and implemented by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Treasury.

Her administration has been accused of hypocrisy after refusing to sack education minister John Swinney (foreground) while calling for the head of Gavin Williamson.

Dr Catherine Calderwood twice drove to a second home in defiance of the crucial guidelines. Ms Sturgeon said she was ‘trying to make the best judgements’ after initially trying to keep Dr Calderwood in post, before finally conceding she had to go.

The findings emerged after YouGov found this week that backing for independence is growing in Scotland.

Excluding ‘don’t knows’, 53 per cent north of the border supported splitting from the UK, compared to 47 per cent who wanted to keep the union. 

That was a two point rise from January, and the highest level the firm has ever recorded.

But her SNP administration has come in for some serious criticism.

This week she faced widespread fury over the nation’s exam fiasco – although it was later overshadowed by a similar meltdown in England. 

Her administration has been accused of hypocrisy after refusing to sack education minister John Swinney while calling for the head of Gavin Williamson. 

In April she was embarrassed when Scotland’s chief medical officer quit after flouting her own lockdown rules.

Dr Catherine Calderwood twice drove to a second home in defiance of the crucial guidelines. Ms Sturgeon said she was ‘trying to make the best judgements’ after initially trying to keep Dr Calderwood in post, before finally conceding she had to go. 

In May Ms Sturgeon furiously denied claims of a cover-up after an investigation linked a cluster of coronavirus cases to a Nike conference in February.

A BBC Scotland Disclosure investigation revealed more than 70 Nike employees from around the world attended a conference at the Hilton Carlton Hotel in Edinburgh on February 26 and 27.

It is understood one visiting attendee passed on the virus, with investigations finding at least 25 people linked to the event contracted Covid-19, including eight in Scotland.

But the case was not revealed and Scotland’s first official case was announced on March 1, unrelated to the conference.

The First Minister blamed concerns over patient confidentiality for preventing details of the event being made public earlier.

And in June she was savaged over a crisis in care homes after official figures showed more people had died in the facilities than in hospital.

Nearly 1,000 elderly patients were discharged from hospital to care homes early in the outbreak without being tested.

National Records of Scotland (NRS) statistics revealed Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificates of 1,818 care home victim, higher than the 1,815 in hospitals. 

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