LIKE thousands of other people, I watched the daily briefings from Nicola Sturgeon throughout the pandemic. Often, the news was harrowing, but the First Minister was an encouraging figure at the rostrum, keeping us informed, and reassuring us that we would get through the pandemic and life would return to normal.

I recall at the very start of the emergency, Ms Sturgeon told us frankly that mistakes would be made, but that she would do her very best to keep us all as safe as possible. She did indeed put her whole heart into leading us through a dreadful situation; she took virtually no time off during that long period, but it must have been a comfort to her to have as her deputy, John Swinney, one of the most decent men in politics, anywhere.

Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing. I find it ironic that now the pandemic is over, suddenly there are lots of experts pontificating about what Ms Sturgeon should or shouldn't have done. What she didn't do was hold boozy parties at Bute House, and nor did she say "let the bodies pile high". Indeed, many people south of the Border found Ms Sturgeon's clear and concise briefings of more help than the ramblings of Boris Johnson.

No doubt she and her team had disagreements, it would have been strange if it had been otherwise. Ms Sturgeon, her Government and advisers were having to give advice and take decisions in what was literally a life and death situation, and while she didn't get everything right, she deserves thanks and appreciation for all the many things she did get right. Nicola Sturgeon was our rock during the worst health emergency any of us had ever experienced in our lifetimes; who would have wanted to stand in her shoes?

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

Read more: Sturgeon regrets not locking down sooner as she apologises to bereaved

Lessons to be taken

PREDICTABLY the reaction to Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry ("Sturgeon denies Covid ‘politics’", The Herald, February 1) has been polarised. However, it is possible to accept both that she did her very best and that there were shortcomings in her leadership.

The evidence shows that she stepped up and worked very hard throughout the pandemic, taking personal responsibility, and paying attention to detail. When she says she wishes the pandemic had not happened on her shift and that her objective was to be the best First Minister she could be, I, for one, believe her.

However, aspects of her character, her working style and her political motivation worked against her.

Her dominant personality combined with her tendency to form teams of like-minded people may well have resulted in groupthink.

The result of attention to detail combined with ineffective delegation is getting bogged down in minutiae - the number of people from different households allowed to meet in a pub at a particular time should never have been for the First Minister to decide - and ultimately exhaustion.

When your political ambition is to show that government in Scotland can do better than that of Westminster, it must be impossible not to manage issues and present matters in that context.

There are two lessons that can be taken from this evidence. First, the cult of personality is not good; a more rounded, consensual leader who delegates well would be more effective.

Secondly, few are sufficiently self-aware to see their own weaknesses; feedback needs to be sought and offered. A wise leader should have "critical friends" close to them who can give honest feedback, suggesting modifications to the leader’s working style to help them to be more effective and, ultimately, to make better decisions.

George Rennie, Inverness.

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Be grateful she is gone

IT is hard to believe that it is less than a year since the former First Minister resigned her position.

Nicola Sturgeon's resignation came as a surprise to many as she was perceived as “Queen of all she surveys”. How the mighty have fallen.

Her performance at the UK Covid Inquiry clearly demonstrated how she had lost her Midas touch and from the all-powerful politician entering our homes every day during the pandemic, she had shrunk in stature and lost confidence but more importantly, all credibility.

She commented at her resignation in March 2023 that “I am not leaving politics"; she most certainly should now. She commented that “other people will judge my leadership”; they have now, to her detriment. She commented that “my approval ratings are such that most leaders would give their right arm for”; let us hope they did not. Her legacy will now always be that of someone who misled the Scottish people entirely to serve her own interests and ambitions and we should all be grateful that she no longer has her grubby hands on the levers of power.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh.

• WE have heard Nicola Sturgeon speak at the Covid Inquiry about deleting messages and retaining on a government device only those that were relevant. Other former ministers, including John Swinney and Humza Yousaf, have spoken in the same terms.

Particularly after the announcement that there would be a statutory inquiry, in 2021, this was improper. It was not for those centrally involved in decision-making and policy formation to decide what materials were or were not relevant. That judgment was surely for Lady Hallett and her court.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

Read more: Alister Jack: Nicola Sturgeon 'could cry from one eye if she wanted'

Too much focus on personalities

A FEW Herald readers might be familiar with the character of Lord Buckethead, the villain in Hyperspace, a very cheaply made sci-fi film, and a candidate for the Gremloid and Monster Raving Looney parties who has stood (unsuccessfully) against Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Theresa May and Boris Johnson in UK Parliamentary elections. The main difference between the good (or should that be bad?) Lord and too many expressing opinions these days is that at least he has a slit at the front of his bucket to let him see out.

In 2009, when swine flu threatened to cause the sort of pandemic which Covid eventually has I was a member of the EIS Salaries and Conditions of Service Committee which was asked to comment on a Scottish Government paper on how to keep the education system running in the event that large numbers of pupils and teachers should become infected or die of the disease. It was undoubtedly the grimmest discussion I have ever taken part in and I can only imagine what it must have been like to have similar discussions day after day at the height of the recent pandemic.

While it is predictable that certain national newspapers, columnists like Struan Stevenson ("SNP has tarnished our civil service", The Herald, February 1) and letter writers would pore selectively over the evidence coming before the Covid Inquiry to find the bits that confirm their already-held views, it is somewhat galling to see politicians who a couple of years ago were queueing up to make it obvious how relieved they were that they were not having to handle the crisis baying for blood. There is a considerable lack of self-awareness shown in asking us to believe that accusing the Scottish Government of political point-scoring is somehow not political point-scoring in itself.

It is a sure sign of the extent to which the poison of partisanship has infected every aspect of political discourse that current coverage has become focused so much on personalities and so little on how we prepare for and deal with such a major catastrophe in the future.

Robin Irvine, Helensburgh.

The Herald: One of the Scottish Government's papers on independenceOne of the Scottish Government's papers on independence (Image: PA)

The misuse of civil servants

AMIDST the revelations of secrecy and incompetence of Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid regime, Struan Stevenson ("SNP has tarnished our civil service", The Herald, February 1) highlights the SNP’s overt politicisation of the Scottish Civil Service.

Having 20 civil servants working on plans, at a cost of £1.4 million, for Scotland to secede from the UK is surely a misuse of Scotland’s revenue.

Elsewhere you report that the dire state of Belford Hospital in Fort William is being ignored by the SNP Government ("Doctor in challenge on ageing hospital", The Herald, February 1).

In South Lanarkshire the council is being forced to apply savage SNP cuts to funding by considering closing care homes, libraries, leisure centres and golf courses.

Humza Yousaf, the current First Minister and heir to Ms Sturgeon, should redirect funding and civil servants to providing the services that people rely on for their health and wellbeing rather than to the fading nationalist dream of independence.

However it is gratifying, yet disturbing, to note that the highly qualified civil servants working in the Constitutional Futures Division have not been able to produce any compelling economic or social evidence in favour of secession from the UK in any of their nine Building a New Scotland papers.

James Quinn, Lanark.