Plurality of Scottish Voters Believe the Scottish Government Politicised the Pandemic

February 7, 2024
R&WS Research Team
Coronavirus | GB Public Figures | Health | Scottish Independence | UK Government | UK Politics

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Last week, former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave evidence before the UK Covid-19 Inquiry. 

During her testimony, Sturgeon admitted there were periods during the pandemic when she wished she hadn’t been First Minister of Scotland, criticised the handling of the pandemic by the then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and refuted suggestions that the Scottish Government had used the pandemic to advance the cause of Scottish independence.

Sturgeon’s protestation that her Government had not politicised the pandemic was dismissed by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack during his own evidence to the Inquiry, saying he “didn’t believe it for a minute.”

In the wake of Sturgeon’s appearance, we at Redfield and Wilton Strategies’ find that a plurality of Scottish voters agree that the Scottish Government politicised the pandemic in order to further the cause of Scottish independence.

45% agree and 29% disagree that the Scottish Government politicised the pandemic. A majority of 2019 Conservative (78%) and a plurality of 2019 Labour (48%) voters agree with the statement, while 44% of SNP voters at the last General Election disagree.

Sturgeon’s evidence attracted widespread interest. 

Only 15% of Scottish voters saw or read nothing about her evidence to the Inquiry, while 50% say they either watched her evidence in full (11%) or watched or read parts of it (39%).

Scottish voters are almost evenly split on the trustworthiness of Sturgeon’s evidence to the Covid Inquiry. On a scale of 0 (no trust) to 3 (complete) trust, 49% of Scottish voters rate their trust in the evidence that Sturgeon gave to the Inquiry as either a 0 (26%) or a 1 (23%). On the flipside, 50% rated their trust at the highest two points on the scale of either 2 (32%) or 3 (18%).

Nevertheless, Scottish voters still view Sturgeon’s response to the pandemic in a positive light.

Net approval for Sturgeon’s handling of the pandemic stands at +15%. 45% say they approve of how Sturgeon handled the pandemic as First Minister, against 30% who disapprove of her handling of the crisis.

When compared with the UK Government, Scottish voters overwhelmingly feel their own devolved Government handled the pandemic better.

51% of Scottish voters think the Scottish Government handled the pandemic better, against just 13% who think the UK Government handled it better. 21% think the two Governments handled the pandemic equally well (or poorly).

Ultimately, and perhaps unsurprisingly for such a dominant figure in Scottish politics, most voters say her appearance at the Covid Inquiry has done little to change their view of her.

56% say their view of Sturgeon has not changed since her appearance at the Inquiry. Even so, about a quarter (26%) now say they have a more negative view of her. 12%, meanwhile, say they now have a more positive view of the former First Minister.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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