Nicola Sturgeon has fought back tears at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry as she revealed a large part of her wished she hadn’t been first minister when the pandemic struck.

“I felt overwhelmed by the scale of what we were dealing with,” she said.

She also denied seeing a “political opportunity” in the contrast between her experience and Boris Johnson’s response to the outbreak.

Asked by inquiry counsel Jamie Dawson KC whether she thought Mr Johnson had been the “wrong Prime Minister for this crisis”, Ms Sturgeon said: “Yes.”

She went on: “I don’t think I’m betraying any secrets here when I thought Boris Johnson was the wrong person to be Prime Minister full stop.”

Asked if she considered herself to have been the “right First Minister for the job”, Ms Sturgeon said: “No, that’s not how I would have thought of it at all.

“I was the First Minister when the pandemic struck.”

She then paused as she became emotional. 

Her voice breaking, she went on: “There’s a large part of me wishes that I hadn’t been… but I was and I wanted to be the best first minister I could be during that period.

“It’s for others to judge the extent to which I succeeded.”

She was then asked whether, given her greater experience, including dealing with a swine flu outbreak, she saw a “political opportunity” in the contrast with perceptions of Mr Johnson.

Wiping her eyes, she said: “No. The answer I gave you a moment ago about Boris Johnson, I don’t remember thinking that in the moment.”

“I’ve made the political comment about my views on Boris Johnson generally. In those early days of the pandemic, my view was, and my experience was, that we were all trying our best in almost impossible circumstances.

“To the next bit of your question, did I see an opportunity, I didn’t see an opportunity of any description in Covid. I saw a threat, a risk, a catastrophe.”

“My memories of the early part of 2020 of how I was feeling and thinking and the emotions that I was experiencing was, first, fear at what might be about to unfold and confront the country.

“At times.. We’ve seen snippets of the human side of being a leader and a politician in these moments, at times in those early days I felt overwhelmed by the scale of what we were dealing with, and perhaps more than anything I felt an overwhelming responsibility to do the best I could.

“So the idea that those horrendous days, weeks, I was thinking of a political opportunity, I find, well, it just wasn’t true.”

However a Scottish cabinet minute released by the Inquiry last week suggested SNP ministers had discussed using the pandemic to promote independence.

The record of the 30 June 2020 meeting said ministers “agreed that consideration should be given to restarting work on independence and a referendum, with the arguments reflecting the experience of the coronavirus crisis and developments on EU Exit”.

The Scottish Tories called it "disgusting".