Boris Johnson – Alister Jack panned for ‘desperate politicking’ over Nicola Sturgeon’s briefings
THE SNP has accused Alister Jack of “bullying” and “desperate politicking” after calling for the First Minister to be cut from the Scottish Government’s Covid briefings.
The Scotland Secretary described the updates as the “Nicola Sturgeon Show” and said medical or scientific experts should replace her.
He also said the pandemic had given the First Minister a “platform”, adding: “I point my finger directly at BBC Scotland for that.”
But the SNP said it was an “extraordinary outburst” attacking the broadcaster for screening vital public health information.
Sturgeon has led regular briefings throughout the Covid crisis, which have also featured appearances from scientists, chief medical and nursing officers and police chiefs.
Meanwhile, two out of three briefings held by the UK Government last week were fronted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with one led by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
However, Jack told The Herald: “I don’t think all of the broadcasts they have given her [Sturgeon] have been around Covid issues.
READ MORE: Alister Jack complains BBC’s ‘Nicola Sturgeon Show’ should be cut before election
“When the UK Government have done those, they have involved scientists and chief medical officers and, in terms of the vaccination, Army officers.
“That’s the right way [to do it], to allow the experts to speak. But this has been the Nicola Sturgeon Show and given her a platform.”
When asked if BBC Scotland bosses should now review the First Minister’s broadcasts, Jack said: “I do. I have said this to the BBC and questioned, as we get closer to an election, if it is the right thing to do.
“I don’t dispute the public need to be informed but there are medical officers who could do that quite adequately.”
Polls have found Sturgeon has been seen as the best performing political leader in the UK during the pandemic.
Jack said he believed the live broadcasts were now giving the SNP leader an unfair political advantage in the runup to the Holyrood election this year.
He added: “The BBC and others need to be impartial and there are other ways of getting that information across using the chief medical officer or the scientific advisers; it doesn’t have to be done by politicians.”
However, a spokesperson for the SNP said: “This is an extraordinary outburst from Alister Jack.
“For a Tory Cabinet minister to attack BBC Scotland for screening vital public health information and try to bully it in this way simply shows how rattled the Tories are – and unless Mr Jack is also demanding his boss Boris Johnson is stopped from giving Covid briefings, everyone will see this for the desperate politicking it is.
“The First Minister is getting on with the job of helping steer the country through the crisis.”
Last year former Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw claimed the BBC should not be “indulging” Sturgeon in “SNP party political broadcasts”.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf (below) said it was “pathetic and petty-minded”, saying the Government often faced challenging questions from the press.
READ MORE: Shrill, panicked, and childish Tories must not shut down daily Covid briefings
Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie – now the party’s interim leader – also wrote a letter of complaint over the amount of airtime the SNP was getting as a result of Covid briefings.
Following those complaints, the BBC announced last autumn it would stop airing all of the Scottish Government conferences and show them based on “editorial merit” while continuing to stream them online.
It then backtracked but began to feature commentary from opposition politicians such as Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross and scientific experts on its Coronavirus Briefing programme on BBC One Scotland.
A BBC Scotland spokesperson said: “Our coverage of coronavirus and public health issues in Scotland incorporates a range of voices and perspectives.
“This allows us to bring news and views from around Scotland and beyond, involving politicians from across the political spectrum, as well as commentators, analysts and other experts.
“We remain committed to having this broad coverage of voices and perspectives across all our news outlets on television, radio and online.”