NICOLA Sturgeon has said repairs carried out at her official Edinburgh residence during lockdown were essential.

The First Minister said she has not set foot in Bute House in Charlotte Square since March last year.

She was responding to a report in the Daily Record newspaper that painters had carried out work on the 18th century property in Edinburgh's New Town earlier this month.

Critics said the news would come as a "slap in the face to the millions of Scots who are studiously observing the current restrictions". 

But the Scottish Government said contractors managed by Historic Environment Scotland had followed all guidelines and restrictions.

The A-listed building is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and serves as the First Minister’s official residence.

Scotland's Covid rules state: "The coronavirus regulations require that work carried out in someone else’s home for the maintenance, upkeep or functioning of the home must only be carried out where it is essential or where that house is unoccupied.

"People must not go into other people’s houses for that type of work where it is not essential."

Asked about the story during the the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: "Firstly, I'm not staying in Bute House just now.

"I haven't set foot in Bute House since the first lockdown because back then I decided to minimise the number of staff that were having to be in Bute House to cut my own contacts as much as possible.

"There has been work carried out in January, but it was essential safety work as I understand - it's been to pin part of a ceiling or the plasterwork of a ceiling that was deemed essential because the state it was in was unsafe.

"And I think there was some security work done at the same time.

"There has been no painting and decorating done, and that was the suggestion in the newspaper this morning."

She stressed coronavirus rules apply to herself, Government officials and other ministers just as they do to everyone else.

Ms Sturgeon added: "I'm not exempt from these rules and nor should I be.

"I know people get really angry, understandably so, if they do get the suggestion that somehow I've got special dispensation, I really don't have and nor should I have."

Before the briefing, opposition parties had suggested having work done on the property undermined the First Minister's public health message.

Scottish Labour MSP Rhoda Grant had said: "This news will come as a slap in the face to the millions of Scots who are studiously observing the current restrictions."

Scottish Conservatives health spokesman Donald Cameron said: "While this work was deemed essential, many people will be wondering if this was absolutely necessary at this time."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Essential ceiling pinning work has taken place in January at Bute House and was completed on Monday.

“Contractors managed by Historic Environment Scotland follow all Government guidelines and restrictions and adhere to Covid protocols at all times.”