Boris Johnson was the “wrong person” to be prime minister during the pandemic, Nicola Sturgeon has told the Covid-19 inquiry.
The former Scottish first minister was giving evidence at the hearing in Edinburgh on Wednesday, amid scrutiny around the deletion of WhatsApp messages.
Jamie Dawson KC, counsel to the inquiry, told Ms Sturgeon that a number of witnesses had suggested Mr Johnson was the “wrong prime minister for this crisis”, and asked her if this was a view she shared.
Ms Sturgeon replied: “Yes.”
She added: “I don’t think I’m betraying any secrets here when I say Boris Johnson was the wrong person to be prime minister, full stop.”
Asked if she believed herself to be the right first minister for the job during Covid, she replied: “No, that’s not how I thought at all. I was the first minister when the pandemic struck.
Becoming emotional, she said: “There’s a large part of me that wishes I hadn’t been. But I was, and I wanted to be the best first minister I could be during that period. It’s for others to judge the extent to which I succeeded.”
Ms Sturgeon, who resigned as first minister in February last year after eight years in the role, said that at times she felt “overwhelmed” by the scale of what they were dealing with regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, and there was an “overwhelming” responsibility to do the best she could.
She added that despite what she thought about Mr Johnson at the start of pandemic, she thought everyone was doing their best.
At an earlier stage of questioning, Ms Sturgeon was quizzed about her WhatsApp communications.
Several figures from her government have already been questioned at the inquiry over their deletion of WhatsApp messages sent and received during the pandemic.
Asked if she deleted her WhatsApps, Ms Sturgeon confirmed she had. She said her messages “weren’t retained”, rather than deleted.
Jamie Dawson KC asked Ms Sturgeon: “But did you delete them?”
Ms Sturgeon said: “Yes, in the manner I have set out.”
She told the inquiry that it was “not my style and it’s never been my practice” to use WhatsApp to make decisions during the pandemic “because it’s not a helpful process in reaching decisions”.
Ms Sturgeon said she deleted informal messages, in line with official advice, and “salient” points were all recorded on the corporate record.
“I operated from 2007, based on advice, the policy that messages, business relating to government, should not be kept on a phone that could be lost or stolen and insecure in that way, but properly recorded through the system,” she said.
While she had not retained the messages on her own devices, Ms Sturgeon said she managed to retrieve copies from the Scottish government to submit to the inquiry.