UP until last Thursday (February 1), on each day of the Scottish sessions of the UK Covid Inquiry, the 6pm BBC UK news carried reports of the questioning of Scottish Government ministers, former ministers, advisers and of the medical experts who had worked closely with the Scottish Government during the pandemic. These reports regularly focused on the difficulties and perceived shortcomings of Holyrood’s response to the Covid threat.

Much was made of the absence of WhatsApp messages. So I was looking forward to finding out how cottish Secretary Alister Jack’s evidence would be reported on Thursday’s bulletin, not least his admission that he had deleted all of his WhatsApp messages ("Jack admits he deleted all his Covid messages too", The Herald, February 2). Perhaps I was not overly surprised that there was no report of Mr Jack’s session. The only Scottish story that evening was about a missing monkey. While Mr Jack’s session was reported on the Scottish news it was not reported on the 6pm UK news. It’s hard not to read into this omission a deliberate slanting of the evidence being heard by the Covid Inquiry.

During his evidence (and in subsequent interviews), Mr Jack regularly accused Nicola Sturgeon of politicising the pandemic. His hypocrisy is quite breathtaking, as he had said in his own evidence that his daily job was "to strengthen the United Kingdom". Much of his work as Scottish Secretary seems to suggest that he interprets this as damaging the devolution settlement. It is quite one thing to disagree with your political opponents but when you go to the lengths of stating that our former First Minister could "cry out of one eye if she wanted to" is both insulting and reduces political debate to crude name-calling. His rudeness was echoed by Douglas Ross, who claimed that Ms Sturgeon could cry crocodile tears. I think most of us can recognise genuine emotion when we see it and clearly the enormous burden of responsibility carried by her over those dreadful years has taken its toll.

Let us not forget for one minute the threat faced by the UK early in 2020. The danger was unprecedented. There was uncertainty, fear and despair as the dreadful death toll mounted. The country desperately needed the leadership given by the First Minister and her close colleagues. Demonstrably the Westminster Government was not prepared for the Covid pandemic, having chosen to ignore the advice of senior health officials who had war-gamed the impact of a coronavirus hitting the UK. Their published report warned four years before the onset of Covid-19 of the need for stockpiles of PPE, a computerised contact tracing system and screening for foreign travellers. The Scottish Government had to contend with a UK Government which was dysfunctional, incompetent, riven with disagreement, sullied by cronyism and quite prepared to break its own regulations. A Government led by a Prime Minister who deliberately lied to the House of Commons. In conclusion, those who are rushing to condemn Nicola Sturgeon should pause for reflection. We were grateful at the time for her leadership. We should be grateful now.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.

Read more: We must get back to properly applying codes of conduct

Treatment was unfair

NICOLA Sturgeon’s critics were predictably out in full force last week. But what I found most disturbing was the treatment she received at the UK Covid Inquiry. For instance, counsel to the inquiry accused her of using the pandemic to promote independence. This was despite Ms Sturgeon pointing out that the Cabinet Secretary had written to the UK Government saying that work on this had been postponed during the crisis.

Furthermore, when she pointed out that she had specifically asked Boris Johnson to postpone work on Brexit so as to release more Scottish civil servants to work on the pandemic, counsel suddenly declined to investigate the politicisation issue further. So was he pursuing an agenda?

Subsequent discussion covered the consideration of the Covid experience in Scotland being used to inform the independence debate. We also had the anticipated future reaction of Spanish politicians to cancelling flights from Spain. However, both of these issues were referencing post-Covid events. As such they would have had no impact on any delivery issues during the actual pandemic. So what was the point of raising them as subject matter to be analysed?

Counsel then accused Ms Sturgeon of “sleeping on the job’ - ie not acting fast enough. Yet 10 minutes later he accused her of “jumping the gun” by banning mass gatherings ahead of the rest of the UK - ie acting too fast. By definition she cannot be simultaneously guilty of both.

He then went on to infer that the lack of minutes for Gold Command meetings was evidence of a cover-up as regards decision-making. But this was irrespective of the fact that Cabinet would still have had to approve any conclusions reached at these meetings. It is the key decision-making forum and its minutes are available. So again, what was the relevance of the allegation?

The bereaved families also claimed that the unavailability of such information could have been contributory to any deaths. But where is the evidence trail which leads to that assertion? They damaged their cause further by asserting that Ms Sturgeon’s tears were wholly artificial. None of us is in any position to make such a judgment.

Similar claims made by Alister Jack and Douglas Ross came as no surprise, however. Neither is seeking to retain their Westminster seat at the forthcoming election so they can indulge themselves in gutter politics without fearing a voter backlash. Nevertheless I can’t help but wonder what those who died would have thought if they knew that their deaths would be hijacked to score points off political opponents.

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.

The Herald: Alister JackAlister Jack (Image: PA)

Alister Jack was correct

MAY I say, as a non-Conservative, that I fully endorse what Alister Jack said about the former FM and her ability to cry through one eye only if the occasion warranted. I found her performance at the inquiry exactly as I expected it to be, phoney in its entirety and am at a loss as to how anyone could be taken in.

There can be not a scintilla of doubt that throughout the pandemic, she did politicise the situation. I would venture that even her nearest and dearest would concur with Mr Jack's second point if they were honest with themselves.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.

Complete lack of empathy

I AM no mouthpiece for Nicola Sturgeon, nor the SNP Government, but Alister Jack’s comment about her that "she could cry from one eye if she wanted to" is about as low a politician can go.

His public persona reeks of aloofness, coldness and a completely lack of empathy so I guess that comment merely confirms my suspicions. Luckily he is standing down at the upcoming election.

Willie Towers, Alford.

Perspective is required

COMPARE the tone and content of the letters from Ruth Marr and George Rennie (February 2). Mr Rennie's contribution is balanced and fair: the former First Minister made mistakes but in honesty everyone was making it up as they went along, none of us having faced a problem such as this. His criticism of her management approach looks more and more apposite the more we hear.

Ms Marr's, on the other hand, is an exercise in hagiography and comparison (even if often justified) with the Downing Street approach. No mention of Ms Sturgeon's increasingly evident failings on a larger range of subjects. No sensible person expects political leaders to be unfailingly correct and effective, but a balanced and fair view requires perspective.

Brian Chrystal, Edinburgh.

Read more: Could Nicola Sturgeon have been weeping for her lost career?

Point of order

WHY the bad feelings towards Nicola Sturgeon? Readers of your Letters Pages will know I am no fan but, in fairness, I agree that she is totally honest, open and transparent about what she wants to be honest, open and transparent about.

Duncan Sooman, Milngavie.

Why the difference?

OTTO Inglis (Letters, February 3) is thankful for the “professionalism of the British civil service” in keeping the “records necessary for competent government” at Westminster and believes that the civil service at Holyrood “regarded minutes as an optional extra”.

Since Holyrood does not choose and appoint its own civil servants but has to accept those members of the British civil service appointed by Westminster to work for the Scottish Government, perhaps he would like to explain why the same British civil service is so punctilious and competent at Westminster but so inefficient and unprofessional at Holyrood.

P Davidson, Falkirk.