Nicola Sturgeon has said there are “no excuses” for her breach of Covid rules after she removed her face mask at a funeral wake.
Scotland’s first minister was photographed standing up without her face covering as she spoke to three members of the public while attending the event at a bar and restaurant in Edinburgh last Friday.
Regulations state that customers in hospitality venues must wear a face covering except when seated, including when they are entering, exiting or moving around, and any breach is punishable by a fixed penalty notice of £60.
Making the apology ahead of the final session of first minister’s questions for 2020, Sturgeon said: “I took my face mask off while briefly attending a funeral purvey last week. I’m sure everyone will have seen in the media this morning a picture of me without it. I want to be clear today that regardless of the circumstances, I was in the wrong. There are no excuses. These rules do apply to me, just as they do to everyone else and the rules really matter.”
Sturgeon told MSPs: “I am kicking myself very hard, possibly harder than my worst critic ever could. But more importantly, I’ll be making sure I do not drop my guard again.”
The response to Sturgeon’s infraction has been muted and in some cases sympathetic, while the matter was not raised again by opposition leaders during the Holyrood session.
Ged Killen, the former Labour MP for Margaret Ferrier’s Rutherglen constituency, tweeted: “I doubt many people have followed the rules more closely than Nicola Sturgeon. I’m much less upset about this than I am about the fact Margaret Ferrier remains a member of the SNP. Every day she is an MP is an insult to the people she is supposed to represent.”
Last month, the Guardian reported that Ferrier’s constituents felt frustrated by their MP’s continued refusal to step down after she travelled by train from London to Scotland following a positive Covid test result.
Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews, who has advised the Scottish and UK governments on compliance with coronavirus guidelines, said he did not believe that Sturgeon’s error would have an impact on public behaviour.
“The literature on ‘scandals’ suggests that very often it is not the original act that is the problem but the subsequent reaction: [Dominic] Cummings justifying his actions, Kay Burley making up stories. On this, Sturgeon has immediately come clean and admitted the error. She hasn’t tried to diminish it.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Scotland’s national clinical director, Jason Leitch, told BBC Radio Scotland Sturgeon’s mask was off because she was leaving the venue, and that she was then called back but did not put it back on.
He described her as “absolutely mad at this little lapse in concentration”.
Leitch said: “She was leaving a funeral of a colleague of ours – a wonderful, wonderful individual who did a huge amount of work during the pandemic. It was an awfully sad day for many of us in the government who knew him and his family well. It just reinforces again to all of us the nature of these instructions and this virus.”