CONSERVATIVE and Labour MSPs have criticised Nicola Sturgeon for giving Covid-19 updates live on television but not facing opponents in Holyrood – accusing the First Minister of showing “apparent disrespect” to the Scottish Parliament.

Tory MSP Stephen Kerr raised a point of order in Holyrood, shortly before the First Minister gave an update and took questions from MSPs on the Scottish Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Kerr took offence to the First Minister holding a briefing in front of journalists and on live television on Friday, a day Holyrood doesn’t usually sit.

He said: “Last Friday, the First Minister made yet another televised Covid statement and went on to take questions from journalists. That happened even though the Parliament sat last Thursday.

“That was only the latest occasion on which the First Minister has chosen to speak to TV cameras rather than to come to the chamber to make a statement and to take questions from the members of this Parliament.

“Parliament is where statements should be made first—we are elected to hear statements first. The First Minister should give the Parliament the respect that it deserves.”

Mr Kerr then asked the Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone, if she would “confirm that it is in order for the First Minister to come to the chamber to make Government statements, and that it is not in order for her to ignore the Parliament and instead to make statements in front of TV cameras and journalists”.

He also suggested that the First Minister not being “in a position to make her statement on Thursday”, which he said “is an excuse she might try to offer for the apparent disrespect to the Parliament”, adding that Ms Sturgeon could have attempted to have Holyrood sit on Friday to hear her update.

Mr Kerr added: “Finally, Presiding Officer, I ask you to make further representations to the Scottish Government and, in particular, to the First Minister to the effect that Government statements should first be made in Parliament in order to allow for proper scrutiny and to show respect for our Parliament.”

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The Presiding Officer confirmed that the cross-party Parliamentary Bureau has discussed the concerns.

She added: “It is my expectation that all substantial announcements in relation to Covid-19 will be made to the Parliament.

“Issues relating to timetabling of business are, in the first instance, for discussion at the bureau’s meetings and are, ultimately, for the Parliament to decide.

“Any concerns that members have about timetabling of business can be raised through their business manager or directly with me.”

But Labour’s Neil Bibby also raised a point of order about the issue.

He said: “These are extraordinary times and governments around the world are taking extraordinary measures, which make accountability and parliamentary scrutiny more important than ever.”

Mr Bibby pointed to the ministerial code which states “ministers should ensure that important announcements of government policy are made, in the first instance, to the Parliament”.

He added: “We recently met for four hours on a Friday to elect our deputy presiding officers.

“We could, if it was required, easily meet on a Friday to consider urgent matters that are of national importance, such as the levels of tiered coronavirus restrictions that apply to our constituents.

“When critical announcements and statements are made by the First Minister to a press conference instead of to the Parliament, members are denied the opportunity to question the First Minister and the Scottish Government about their decisions as a situation develops.

“There is no reason why the Parliament should be denied the opportunity to fulfil its role in holding the Government to account, and to do so in good time.”