Nicola Sturgeon has revealed that not locking down “a week, two weeks earlier” at the start of the pandemic is a chief regret as part of an emotional evidence session in front of the UK Covid Inquiry.

The former first minister became tearful at times while giving evidence in Edinburgh on Wednesday, including when saying a “large part” of her wishes she had not been Scotland’s first minister during the pandemic.

She said: “Of the many regrets I have, probably chief of those is that we didn’t lock down a week, two weeks, earlier than we did.”

She denied making pandemic decisions for political reasons, adding she had not “thought less” about politics and Scottish independence in her life than she did during the pandemic.

She added: “I was motivated solely by trying to do the best we could to keep people as safe as possible.

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“We did that to some extent, but not to, and perhaps we never could have done it to the extent I would have wished we could have done.

“I carry the regret for the loss of life, the loss of opportunity, the loss of education of our young people, I carry that with me every single day.”

Earlier, she choked back tears as she said: “I was the first minister when the pandemic struck.

“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.”

Ms Sturgeon added it is “for others to judge” if she succeeded in her aim.

UK minister Michael Gove previously accused the Scottish Government of seeking “political conflict” during the pandemic.

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Ms Sturgeon, fighting back tears, said: “The idea that in those horrendous days, weeks, I was thinking of political opportunity” was “not the case”.

She said she felt “fear” and was “overwhelmed by the scale of what we were dealing with” in the early days.

The Scottish Government became aware, the inquiry heard, that Covid-19 was something to “be very worried about” in late January 2020, with the cabinet discussing the virus for the first time on February 4 that year.

In another emotional segment of her evidence, Ms Sturgeon apologised to those in Scotland who suffered during the pandemic.

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She said: “I wish with every fibre of my being that the decisions my government had been able to take could have reduced the number of people in Scotland who did lose someone to Covid.

“I am deeply sorry to each and every bereaved person, and each and every person who suffered in other ways.

“I did my best, my government did our best and people will judge that, but I know that every day I tried my best and those working with me tried their best to steer this country through the Covid pandemic in the best way we could.”