Details of secret polling on the state of the union carried out by the UK Government during the pandemic have been disclosed at the UK Covid inquiry. 

Levelling Up minister Michael Gove was pushed on the survey during his evidence.

Some of the results of were initially shared with Cabinet in late July 2020, after the first wave had passed.

The report revealed that in Scotland, only 27% of people thought that the UK Government was putting in place the right measures to protect the UK from Covid-19, but 70% of respondents believed the Scottish Government was putting in place the right measures to protect Scotland.

In Wales, the figures were 29% to 65%, and in Northern Ireland they were 36% to 61%.

The paper went on to say the UK Government needed to “change perceptions of our response to Covid-19.”

“There is a real opportunity to outline how being part of the Union has significantly reduced the hardship faced by individuals and businesses across the UK, and will continue to do so.

“But as outlined in paragraph two, satisfaction with the UK Government response to Covid-19 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is low.

“Building on the work of the Treasury, we need to generate further, tangible examples of where we have acted in the interests of citizens across all four nations, and all departments should review their Covid-19 response to identify examples that could be utilised in future communications.”

READ MORE: 'Scandal' over Gove's use of pandemic research contract to test attitudes to the Union

Details of the secret survey were first revealed by The Herald in 2021. 

Court documents showed that Mr Gove made an urgent request that polling meant to inform "vital" advice to shape the UK government's pandemic response, awarded under an emergency Covid contract, should also test attitudes to the Union.

Claire Mitchell KC, acting on behalf of the Scottish Covid Bereaved, asked Mr Gove if the paper showed the UK Government believed the pandemic was "an opportunity to emphasise the strength of the Union, that you were suggesting that a political point could be made."

"Was it in fact, the UK Government playing politics with a pandemic response?” she asked.

“No, of course not,” he replied. “The first thing that I would say is that the mismatch in figures there occurred at a time when the approach of both the UK Government and the Scottish Government was very similar.

“And we had been working effectively together. To my mind it was important that we communicated that the UK Government was operating effectively and operating in tandem with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland executive.

“But it's also the case that the strength of the United Kingdom in dealing with the pandemic was a material benefit to all the countries within the United Kingdom.

"We would not have been able to provide furlough, we would not have been able to roll out the vaccine in the way that we did if we had not been operating as one united kingdom.”

Ms Mitchell shared criticism of the relationship between London, and Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast made by Nicola Sturgeon.

She that the joint meetings held between the UK Governments and the devolved administrations were “a charade carried out to give the impression that the Scottish Government were involved in the decision making process.”

But decisions had already been taken elsewhere in “secretive meetings.”

Mr Gove disagreed.

He said there had been flexibility from Whitehall and that there were “many occasions where the first ministers and representatives of devolved administrations were acquainted with decision making before the cabinet.”

The UK was not, he added, a federal state.

“It is the case that for example, quite properly, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government would take decisions themselves within their cabinets. UK Government ministers were not invited to be observers or participants in those discussions. Neither should we have been.”

READ MORE: Covid Inquiry: Boris Johnson 'bamboozled' by science

Earlier in the session, he had accused Ms Sturgeon of trying to exploit grievances against the Westminster government.

He claimed the SNP was often tempted “to exaggerate the impact of a mistake or an error in order to feed a broader political mission”.

Mr Gove told the inquiry, that in Wales and Northern Ireland, the first minister was from a unionist party, but the SNP is different, he says, because it wants to leave the UK.

Earlier, during his evidence, Mr Gove also claimed there was a “significant body of judgment” that believes Covid-19 was “man-made”.

He was quickly cut off by Hugo Keith KC, lead counsel to the inquiry, who said the “divisive” issue is not part of the inquiry’s terms of reference.

“We’re not going to go there,” he said.

Mr Gove replied that it is “important to recognise that the virus presented a series of new challenges that required … the science to adjust”.

Covid-19’s origins are still being examined nearly four years after the first cases emerged in Wuhan in China.

The inquiry also saw WhatsApps shared between Mr Gove and Dominic Cummings, in which the former chief aide joked about taking his family to the countryside in March 2020, just weeks before the infamous trip to Durham and then Barnard Castle.

The messages began on 4 March when Mr Gove messaged Mr Cummings: “We are fucking up as a government and missing golden opportunities … the whole situation is even worse than you think and action needs to be taken or we’ll regret it for a long time.”

On 11 March, Mr Cummings messaged Mr Gove to say that the Cabinet Office was “a fucking joke”, saying: “They told us they had plan. Obv bollocks.”

After Mr Gove replied: “Indeed”, Cummings went on to joke: “I’m tempted to take family to countryside and hold a press conference saying you’re on your own – the CabOff and parliament have fucked us all.” He added: “People should be shot,” to which Mr Gove replied: “Who did you envisage first in line?”

Just 16 days later Mr Cummings travelled to a property owned by his parents in Durham with his wife, who had contracted apparent Covid, and their young son.

The family were sighted there by several locals, including during the now-famed jaunt to Barnard Castle, a local beauty spot, on 12 April, when Robin Lees, a retired chemistry teacher, spotted Cummings and noted down the family car’s numberplate.

Mr Cummings claimed he only drove to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.