ONE of the country's most prominent public health experts has said an independent Scotland would have handled the coronavirus pandemic better.

Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University and a member of the Scottish Government's Covid-19 Advisory Group, made the comments in an interview with Holyrood magazine.

She said people across the political spectrum have told her First Minister Nicola Sturgeon "has done a remarkable job"

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Asked by the magazine if she thought different decisions would have been taken in an independent Scotland with Ms Sturgeon in charge, Ms Sridhar said: “Yes, definitely.”

She said: “I think, yes, we could have hopefully been more like a Norway or a Denmark.

"Already, if you look at the charts and the devolved nations, Scotland does come out in terms of lowest case numbers.

"At the start, in March, it did just as badly, but since then, in the summer, we got the numbers low.

“But I think there are constraints. Any time you want to put in a package, an economic package, to be able to support hospitality because we have to shut it, it’s a negotiation at the start.

"That was a really stressful time, [asking] can we actually shut hospitality? Though we thought that was the right thing to do at the point from the Advisory Group perspective.

“So, yeah, I think it is really hard because we’re not getting the support that we require to be able to go the full way we want to go.

"It’s hard because, I think, you saw in the summer the talks about elimination and zero Covid, clear focus on getting numbers low – we never saw that clarity of vision from England and that’s really hard.

"We’re still not getting it, and I hope we will get it, but it might take a few more months.”

She added: “I do feel much safer right now being in Scotland, knowing that there’s a leader in charge who takes the health of the public incredibly seriously and takes her job really seriously and is hard-working."

Ms Sridhar said the First Minister has "done her daily briefings, she has been serious, she has been credible and she has been trying to do her best for the country".

She added: "We have to give respect where it’s due. It’s not a political point – it’s a point about showing up and doing your best for the country.

"I’ll take the heat for saying that, I don’t mind. I will speak what I think is right."

Ms Sturgeon yesterday announced the current lockdown restrictions will continue until at least the middle of February.