NICOLA Sturgeon has hit back at a Labour peer who raised concerns her regular coronavirus briefings breach impartiality rules. 

George Foulkes said Ofcom should insist on BBC Scotland changing the TV coverage to remove the First Minister.

He argued public health officials should present the Covid facts rather than politicians, who could use the Scottish Parliament for political statements.

Lord Foulkes said if the live briefings continued into next year’s Holyrood election campaign it would be an “outrageous breach of the impartiality rules which Ofcom has a responsibility to uphold”.

Asked about his comments during her latest update, Ms Sturgeon said she has "a really important responsibility as First Minister to communicate public health information to the public".

She added: "Whether they are broadcast live is not a matter for me, that's a matter for broadcasters and I'm not going to comment at the moment on that. 

"I think the only thing I'd say is George Foulkes has never wanted these briefings to happen, which I think is regrettable because it suggests that political considerations are more important than the vital imperative of communicating directly to the public in a public health emergency. 

"But that's for him to answer for, not for me."

Opposition politicians have repeatedly raised concerns over Ms Sturgeon's coronavirus briefings.

In August, Labour demanded an urgent meeting with the head of BBC Scotland over what it claimed were “increasingly political” briefings on the outbreak.

The Scottish Tories have accused Ms Sturgeon of using the briefings “to promote SNP policy and stir up resentment”.

In a letter sent to Ofcom on Saturday, Lord Foulkes revealed he had already expressed his concerns in a meeting with new BBC Director-General Tim Davie last month.

He said he told Mr Davie the First Minister was speaking directly to the people of Scotland “ostensibly” as a Covid update, but including “topics of a political nature, sometimes critical of the UK Government, with no proper right of reply to the other parties”.

Lord Foulkes told Ofcom: “As you will appreciate, I am not a supporter of the current UK Government, but I am a supporter of adherence to the rules of political impartiality at both a UK and Scottish level.”

He said Mr Davie then arranged for him and Edinburgh MP Ian Murray to meet the new BBC Scotland director Steve Carson.

He said: “We expressed our concerns that the rules on political impartiality continue to be flouted.

“It was clear that BBC Scotland broadcast the briefings whenever asked to by the Scottish Government. They could not give us any instance when they had refused to do so.”

Lord Foulkes said BBC Scotland refused to cover the event as if it were a news conference, and so confine it to news bulletins.

He said: “They would not pursue this, I believe because they feel intimidated by the overbearing attitude of the Scottish Government.

“Can I therefore ask Ofcom to now investigate this with a view to insisting that BBC Scotland alter the format of the coverage of the epidemic to conform with the rules.

“If there is a need for a political statement it should be done in the Scottish Parliament, where the Opposition parties have the opportunity to ask questions and comment.

“I cannot stress enough how widespread the concern is on this and how urgent action is needed.”

The Scottish Government said: “The regular live media briefings by the First Minister are used to disseminate the latest public health guidance on coronavirus, as well as important information about services and support for people and the economy

"They also provide an opportunity for scrutiny from the media with 10 to 20 members of the media participating every day.”