If there was a pin to drop, I think you would have heard it. Her eyes filling with tears, Nicola Sturgeon told Jamie Dawson, KC: ‘I was the Prime Minister when the pandemic hit – there’s a big part of me that wished I hadn’t been, but I was, and I wanted to be the best Prime Minister.’
Wearing a sombre dark suit, her eye make-up just a smudge, Nicola Sturgeon cut a diminutive figure at the Covid inquiry this week. Gone are the brightly colored outfits, the endless cheering on her bare appearance and the posing for selfies.
This is a woman who was trafficked as she walked into the building, head down, jaw set and hollering on her way out. We are a long way from the flag-waving Yes rallies of a few years back.
I take no pleasure in seeing her tears. It is not nice to see people cracking under the burden of their responsibilities. And although some suspect they were, I don’t think for a moment they were ‘crocodile tears’.
Sturgeon’s emotion was genuine. I totally believe that there were times during the pandemic where she wished she was nowhere near the government, that she could also be sitting at home baking sourdough or knitting a scarf while watching the news updates, that it was someone others’ time was when Covid arrived.
Nicola Sturgeon wipes tears from her eyes during the Covid investigation
When she took over from Alex Salmond in 2014, there is no doubt that Sturgeon had one ambition that dwarfed all others: to become the first First Minister of an independent Scotland. This was the narrative she wrote for herself and for her party.
And for a number of years, driven by the post-referendum membership numbers and electoral increases, the Yes movement and a certain flag-waving momentum, parts of the country were carried along with it.
I confess I wasn’t one to get sucked in by the hype, but never in a million years did I think it would end up like this. The shock resignation. The criminal investigations. And now, under the unerring scrutiny of a stubborn KC in a silent conference room, the tears and reproaches. Why? Finally, she is taken to heart for her shortcomings.
Because although she may not have wanted them, the truth remains that Sturgeon had many responsibilities during the pandemic. And she didn’t handle everyone well.
The secret ‘Gold Command’ meetings that not even her finance minister was aware of. The decision to discharge hospital patients to care homes. Her obsessive elimination strategy on Covid that seemed more to prove a political point than save lives. And of course those deleted WhatsApp messages.
I wonder if part of Sturgeon’s distress is that she can see her legacy slipping away.
There was no triumphant referendum moment – the pinnacle of her ambitions – but instead a quagmire of accusations and the deeply uncomfortable suggestion that, when it mattered most, she had failed the people of Scotland.
It’s a Blair-like situation. If she wants to be remembered for her successes, she will rather be remembered for her mistakes. A recent poll found that only 32 percent of Scottish voters now trust Sturgeon. For a woman who spent years with sky-high approval ratings, this must be a devastating personal blow.
On a human level, I empathize with her. The enormity of leading a country through its greatest national crisis since World War II must have been crippling at times. But I cannot reconcile myself to the mistakes she made. She had almost six years in the job before Covid hit. She should have known better.
No wonder she cut a small figure. The Sturgeon era is over. And her legacy is set.
Alister Jack revealed during the Covid inquiry this week that he is not on Nicola Sturgeon or John Swinney’s Christmas card list. After this last bruising week, I suspect there will be a few more that won’t make the cut this year…
Davina deserves her big moment
Television presenter Davina McCall was honored with an MBE this week
I’ve long pictured Davina McCall, since the rather tame by today’s standards Channel 4 dating show Streetmate, and watched, fascinated, as she evolved from bouncy TV presenter to women’s health advocate with a brilliant best-selling book about the menopause.
This week she was awarded an MBE for her services to broadcasting. Totally right too. But what on earth would Big Brother have made of all this?
Since the start of the pandemic, Scottish councils have spent £5 million on office equipment and wi-fi to allow staff to work from home. Wait, £5 million? What do they do to split the atom in custom home labs?
The hug that sent the kangaroo into a rage
Many years ago, while traveling, I met a British woman who approached a kangaroo for a hug and was promptly punched in the face. Yes, really.
She seemed surprised that this wild, dangerous animal didn’t want to be petted, and instead deflated by the experience. Not that it put her off. The last time I saw her, she got a rabies shot after trying to pet a wild dog on a beach in India.
I was reminded of that woman when I read about the man at a deer stand in Nottingham who tried to pet a deer and was violently knocked to the ground.
When will people learn that with wild animals it is better to look, not touch?
Margot Robbie gracefully shrugged off suggestions she was upset at not being nominated for an Oscar for her role in Barbie, saying: ‘There’s no way to feel sad when you know you’re so blessed.’ A classic, self-conscious response.
A rougher way home
The macaque was missing for five days after escaping from Highland Wildlife Park
The runaway monkey is home, hooray! The poor Japanese macaque, pictured, wandered the Highlands for five days, surprising locals, hanging out in gardens and spawning a thousand online memes during his stay.
He was finally spotted in a garden near the Highland Wildlife Park on Thursday, munching on some Yorkshire pudding left out for the birds, and shot with a tranquilizer dart.
On his return he was checked by vets and given a ‘good feed’. I hope it included more Yorkshire pudding.
Using the phone is best in selfish driving
There must be a special place in hell for those who use cell phones while driving. And yet, shockingly, more do.
Indeed, the number of motorists using a mobile phone while behind the wheel has doubled in the past year – an astonishing escalation.
The Mail’s own End the Mobile Madness campaign has led to tougher penalties for those who recklessly put the lives of others at risk by using their phones and, following a change in the law in March 2022, drivers can now be stopped if they use a hand phone for anything, not just calls.
And even though the risks are well known – and the fines greater – many motorists are still busy. What will it take? An accident? An injury? Or worse?
No text message, music choice, or Instagram like is worth risking your life for, never mind someone else’s.