SCOTLAND’S former chief medical officer failed to disclose a previous visit to her second home when her career-ending mistake first emerged, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed 

The First Minister said Edinburgh-based Dr Catherine Calderwood only told her after several hours that she was at her bungalow in Fife for two consecutive weekends, not just one, a double breach of her own advice to stay at home in the coronavirus crisis.

On Saturday night, after an approach by the Scottish Sun, the Scottish Government issued a statement saying Dr Calderwood was merely checking on her second home this weekend.

However the next day, after the story appeared in the press, the CMO admitted she and her husband had also visited their Earlsferry property the previous weekend.

Ms Sturgeon said the initial statement concerning a single visit was "a reflection of our understanding at that time", but that more information came to light.

Dr Calderwood resigned as CMO late on Sunday night after Ms Sturgeon tried to keep her in post, despite mounting criticism of her conduct.

Asked why the full truth did not come out on Saturday, Ms Sturgeon said: “The line that was issued on Saturday night reflected the information we had at the time, a couple of hours after the query [from the Scottish Sun] and up against the deadline of the reason for her visit to her house in Fife that weekend.

“She later clarified that she had been there the weekend before and she made that clear at the briefing [for the media] yesterday morning and was open about that.”

Asked about her judgment in not sacking Dr Calderwood immediately, Ms Sturgeon said: “We had a conversation last night and my view last night, having reflected on the events and the developments of the day, was that it was not possible for her to remain in office without potentially damaging the trust in and confidence in the Government’s message.

“That was a view I came to, I discussed it at length with her, and it was a view she agreed with. I have set out why, 24 hours later, I thought she had made a mistake.”

Asked if the CMO had withheld information about her first visit, Ms Sturgeon said: “The query, as I understand it, was specifically about a visit this weekend.

“The statement that went out was a reflection of our understanding at that time of her reasons for her visit that weekend.

“That reflected the understanding we had. She later made clear that there had been a second visit. That’s the situation there.”

Asked if SNP MSPs getting negative feedback from constituents about Dr Calderwood had led to her departure, Ms Sturgeon said: “It wasn’t so much new information. It was my reflection on the course of the day. It became clear to me that Dr Calderwood remaining in office was going to be a risk in and the confidence in the Government’s message.

“It was based on an honest assessment. I was balancing two factors, both of which were important to me in the management of this virus. Firstly, continuity of advice from a chief medical officer who has been immersed in and integral to Scotland’s response, and if at all possible not losing that in the middle of the handling of a virus, and on the other hand understanding acutely the importance of public confidence in the messaging. 

“These were things I was balancing yesterday. These judgments are my responsibility to make as First Minister and I stand by them. But they’re rarely in these situations absolutely black and white. All of us in these positions have to balance a number of things.”

Ms Sturgeon refused to say if Dr Calderwood, who started as CMO in 2015 on a salary of around £125,000, would receive a pay-off for loss of office.

She said: “I’m not going to comment on the terms and conditions of somebody who has resigned. If it is appropriate then the Permanent Secretary will issue information about that.”

She said she was not aware of any of her ministers breaking the lockdown advice.

Asked if she thought the public might have lost trust in her because of the flip-flopping over Dr Calderwood, Ms Sturgeon said: “I certainly hope not.”

Dr Gregor Smith, the new interim CMO, said he had been unaware of Dr Calderwood’s visits.