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Nat Fact Check Special:

Scottish Government's Response to COVID-19

It is nearly six months since the first cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Scotland. Tragically, there have been 4,213 deaths related to the pandemic in that time.

There has been much praise for the UK Governmenr



The Facts



  • In 2015, ‘Exercise Silver Swan’ was carried out across the public sector in Scotland to assess the country’s preparedness for a flu pandemic. It flagged up gaps in social care, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and storage for ‘mass fatalities’.

  • In March 2018, ‘Exercise Iris’ simulated a coronavirus outbreak in Scotland. It exposed a ‘clear gap’ and unease at the lack of clarity on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) availability, training and testing.

  • Concerns were raised about PPE stocks in Scotland by senior health chiefs in January 2020, before the first cases of COVID-19 were recorded here.

  • Nicola Sturgeon missed six UK Government Cobra meetings on coronavirus and didn’t join the sessions until March 2.

The Outbreak

  • The first case of COVID-19 made public by the Scottish Government involved a patient from Tayside who had travelled from Italy and was announced on March 1.

  • However, a BBC investigation in May discovered there had been an outbreak in Edinburgh following a Nike conference in the city on February 26 and 27. At least 25 people subsequently contracted the virus, but the details were not made public – sparking accusations of a cover-up. 

  • It was reported that the North East of England’s ‘patient zero’ attended the conference in February and the infection was passed to a second person in Newcastle at a child’s birthday party.

  • Public Health England was alerted to a case associated with the Edinburgh conference on March 2, but the decision about what to make public was for the Scottish Government.


  • Lockdown was introduced in Scotland on March 23. At this point, the Nike outbreak was still not public, and several major events had been held in Scotland:

    • Scotland played France at Murrayfield in Edinburgh on March 8 in front of 67,000 fans.

    • Rangers played Bayer Leverkusen on March 12 in front of 47,000 fans.

    • The Scottish Government was also prepared to allow the Rangers v Celtic match to go ahead on March 15 – it was only cancelled by the SPFL.

  • A team of epidemiological scientists at University of Edinburgh concluded that more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths could have been prevented if Scotland had locked down two weeks earlier.

Care Homes

  • More than 900 elderly patients were discharged from hospital into care homes in March, followed by over 500 patients in April. In most cases, this happened before a requirement for residents to be tested for COVID-19 was announced on April 21, to help stop the spread of the virus in care homes. The number of patients transferred was originally put at only 300 before the Scottish Government corrected its mistake.

  • In the period up to May 10, an international report from the  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control revealed that 1,438 deaths involving COVID-19 had been reported from care homes in Scotland, representing 45% of all deaths. The corresponding figure for England was 21%, and 25% in Wales.[PN1]  The latest figures show that an almost identical number of people have died in care homes (1,956) and hospitals (1,955) since the outbreak began in Scotland.

  • A BBC investigation revealed that the Care Inspectorate received 30 red warnings that care homes did not have enough staff to properly care for their residents during lockdown, and 149 amber warnings that staffing was stretched.

  • For care home residents with coronavirus, Scottish Government guidance about sending them to hospital originally stated: "It is not advised that residents in long-term care are admitted to hospital for ongoing management but are managed within their current setting.” This later disappeared from the government’s website.



  • In April, more than 100 medical professionals wrote to the Scottish Government to express ‘grave concerns’ about the protective equipment they had been given.

  • A letter from the chief nursing officer initially claimed that masks were unnecessary, which Scottish trade unions warned could have left home and social carers receiving less protection than colleagues in other parts of the UK. UNISON Scotland secured agreement from the Scottish Government that the UK-wide guidance on PPE would apply.

  • In April, a leaked official report from the organisation responsible for delivering health and social care services in Edinburgh said the supply of PPE for key workers was still a ‘concern’.




  • Over 150,000 people in Scotland were placed on a vulnerable shielding list. But people struggled to access vital home delivery services because the Scottish Government failed to share data with retailers.

  • Elderly Scots who did not fall into the shielding list were still advised to remain at home, but it was reported that people struggled to get home deliveries and weren’t receiving support from helplines.












  • Due to COVID-19, pupils in Scotland were unable to sit exams. In August, it emerged that the grades system disadvantaged poorer pupils. The government later performed a U-turn and agreed to accept teacher estimates of scores.




  • A total of 2,491 people have died who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Scotland, with 4,213 deaths registered in Scotland where it was mentioned on the death certificate. A country’s ‘excess mortality’ rate shows the impact of the coronavirus, and there have been nearly 5,000 more deaths than would be expected in a normal year, based on a five-year average. 

What the experts say


“This is bonkers - it is published online on our website here

Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor of the Daily Telegraph.

Scotland in Union Fact Check Conclusion:

The SNP is always looking for a grievance, however contrived.


This particular opinion piece was published in the Scottish edition of the Daily Telegraph and is available online for readers in Scotland – but Dr Whitford chose to believe the conspiracy theories peddled by nationalists on Twitter rather than checking her facts.

It is not the first time that Dr Whitford has been caught out. In the run-up to the 2014 referendum she made the incendiary claim that a privatisation agenda in England was forcing a hospital to consider cancelling cancer operations.

It was described as the ‘most shameful, blatant lie of the campaign’.

The Nationalists’ obsession with conspiracy theories about oil has been covered by our fact check service before.

Official figures show that if Scotland became independent and was in receipt of all oil revenues, families would still be thousands of pounds better off as part of the UK.


Are newspapers hiding the truth about North Sea oil from Scots readers?

Dr Whitford chose to believe the conspiracy theories peddled by nationalists on Twitter

rather than checking her facts.



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