MICHAEL Gove has given a theatrically long pause on live TV when asked to name Nicola Sturgeon’s biggest achievement, before saying he didn’t want to appear negative.

The Levelling Up Secretary took eight seconds - a huge amount of ‘dead air’ in broadcasting terms - when asked the question on BBC One's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

Mr Gove also said that the market would decide the price of MPs’ services after former cabinet secretaries Matt Hancock and Kwasi Kwarteng were caught in a sting asking for £10,000 a day to work for a fake firm.

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He also said he believed Boris Johnson told the truth when he gave evidence to a Commons Committee last week and denied he had misled parliament over Partygate.

Tomorrow is Ms Sturgeon’s last full day as First Minister after more than eight years in post. 

The ballot in the SNP leadership contest closes at noon and the result is expected around 2pm, with the winner due to be confirmed by MSPs on Tuesday.

Raising Ms Sturgeon’s imminent departure, Ms Kuenssberg asked Mr Gove: “What do you think her biggest achievement is?” 

The normally hyperarticulate Mr Gove looked at the floor, said “um” and pulled a face.

He then recovered to add: “I don’t want to say anything, uh, er, bad or, what's the word, er, negative about Nicola Sturgeon.

“Because I think that she is a dedicated public servant, and she's devoted her life to public service.

“And as First Minister of Scotland, I worked with her during the pandemic. 

“I know that she was committed to coming to the right conclusions in the interest of the people of Scotland. 

“I fundamentally disagree with her on many things, but I wish her well.”