THOUSANDS of people died unnecessarily in the pandemic because of "bad decisions" by the UK and Scottish governments, the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has said. 

Roz Foyer said union representatives fought "tooth and nail" to get hold of personal protective equipment (PPE) for their members during the initial period of the crisis. 

It comes after a report by the public spending watchdog Audit Scotland found PPE stocks ran so low at the height of the first wave of Covid in Scotland that there was less than a day's supply of protective gowns and only 24 hours' worth of hospital-grade masks left.

It also found the surge in PPE prices early in the pandemic cost the NHS £37.4 million more than normal.

It repeated an earlier finding that the Scottish Government did not fully implement recommendations from pandemic preparedness exercises.  

Speaking to The Herald's Brian Taylor Podcast, Ms Foyer said: "It was perfectly clear that there wasn't enough PPE. 

"We had issues over PPE in the ambulance service, we had issues right across the care sector with PPE and quality of PPE. 

"We had issues with different grades within our healthcare services and their access to PPE."

She added: "It's hard to overstate the fear. We talk about key workers going out and how they're all heroes and everything. 

"But this has been a really traumatising experience for thousands of frontline, public sector workers."

Ms Foyer said low pay in crucial sectors is "endemic" and public services have been "run down with austerity over many years". 

She added: "We need to put enough investment into areas where we have frontline workers, who are essential workers, to be able to carry out their jobs effectively and safely. 

"And it hasn't been good enough, and people have died."

The union leader continued: "There should have been contingencies. 

"There were reports that warned them what they needed to do and the stockpiles they needed to have. That didn't get carried out.

"We should have a situation where, as a country, we actually anticipate these things. 

"It's not been good enough, and we shouldn't accept that thousands of lives have been lost unnecessarily because of bad decisions that have been made by our governments throughout this pandemic."

Earlier, Nicola Sturgeon was challenged over the Audit Scotland report at First Minister's Questions. 

She said the supply of PPE in Scotland is "much better" than before the pandemic and stocks are significantly higher.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: "You may not have run out of PPE on your spreadsheet, but it ran out in hospitals and our care settings.

"Ask the healthcare workers and they will tell you the truth.

"Today's Audit Scotland report confirms that central stocks of PPE were so low at points they could have run out in eight hours.

"A lack of PPE had consequences, and devastating ones.

"It cost lives, in Scotland a sixth of all cases admitted to hospital in the first wave were healthcare workers or members of their household.

"In total, 21 healthcare staff and 28 social care workers have tragically lost their lives to Covid-19 in Scotland."

Ms Sturgeon said she welcomes scrutiny into the Government's handling of the pandemic but she insisted warnings were not ignored.

She thanked those who "worked so hard to ensure that at no point Scotland ran out of PPE", saying the auditor general had noted the Scottish Government and NHS had worked well together in challenging circumstances.

The First Minister said: "We worked hard - again reflected in this report - to make sure, often on same-day turnaround, that health boards across the country had supplies of PPE.

"Of course there's a lot of learning already been done, and we now have domestic supply chains for PPE that are much better than before the pandemic.

"Before the pandemic, around 100 per cent of all of our PPE was imported, now the majority of it is actually manufactured here in Scotland.

"We now have significantly higher stocks of PPE, hopefully we won't need the same volumes in future.

"But every step of the way we have worked hard, which is reflected in the Audit Scotland report, reflected by the auditor general, to make sure that our staff had PPE and we will continue to do that each and every day."

Today's Brian Taylor Podcast was the first in a series of live recordings, and will be available across all major streaming platforms tomorrow.