SCOTLAND Office minister Douglas Ross faced criticism this morning after “slithering out” of questions on the UK Government’s coronavirus approach while calling Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to close construction sites into question.

Appearing on Good Morning Scotland, the Moray MP was asked by presenter Gary Robertson why construction was being largely shut down in Scotland, but not in England.

“One area where there isn’t agreement on the advice is whether building sites should open,” said the host. “Nicola Sturgeon’s been absolutely clear that unless the construction of an NHS facility is happening, then building sites should close.

“Wouldn’t it have been wiser for the UK Government just to have clamped down on this as well?”

READ MORE: 'Lives at risk' as Glasgow council construction site ignores Scottish guidance​

Ross replied: “No I think where the UK Government have given their advice is if it is possible to socially distance and it is not possible to do your work from home, so ultimately we want as many people as possible to work from home, they should do that. But clearly in construction you cannot work from home. But Public Health England have given guidance for how to socially distance on a construction site to allow important work to continue.”

Robertson cut in: “It’s not essential though is it, building houses. That can wait.”

Ross said the construction was not solely houses, and added: “I’ve got companies in Scotland who are telling me they are able to continue with some of the work south of the Border but they are not north of the Border.”

Robertson then asked if that should be allowed, to which Ross said: “Well I think the question for Nicola Sturgeon is why is it not allowed north of the Border when it can be done safely south of the Border?”

Robertson questioned whether it was truly safe, saying he’d heard from unions who believe social distancing on a building site isn’t practical.

Ross went on: “Well this is Public Health England have given guidance to suggest that it is practical. And I’ve spoken to construction firms who have operations both north and south of the Border and they say they are able to do this and I just think Nicola Sturgeon, you were reviewing these every three weeks, I think she’ll have to answer why it is possible south of the Border but not north of the Border and if it’s possible to allow some construction north of the Border as well where we follow the very strict guidance of social distancing on a construction site.”

The presenter then changed the subject to ask Ross about recent UK Government decisions, including concerns over “confusion” surrounding the UK’s invitation to an EU-wide ventilator procurement scheme.

Amid the coronavirus crisis, the UK was invited to join the bloc’s bulk-buying project. Initially the Government said the UK did not join because we are no longer a member of the EU – but later U-turned and said it was down to communication problems. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove admitted there had been confusion over an email from Brussels about the life-saving machines.

However, Brussels then said the scheme had been discussed in meetings.

Ross was asked if there is trust in the UK Government following the revelations. The MP said: “Well I think people do have a large amount of trust in all the governments at the moment because they are working together to defeat this virus and we’ve seen unprecedented measures from the United Kingdom Government to support businesses, to support the self-employed, to enact a huge volunteering scheme to shield our most vulnerable, so I think people can see all efforts of the Government are focused on dealing with this virus and defeating this virus as quickly as possible.”

Robertson asked how confusion over the email happened.

The MP replied: “I think on ventilators we’ve seen the large number of ventilators the UK Government has procured and is getting into the front line of the NHS right now. So yes there has been confusion over an email but we are working flat out with UK suppliers and suppliers around the globe to make sure the NHS has the ventilators it requires to support people who fall victim to coronavirus and need support in hospitals.”

The presenter also pointed out there is concern over which companies are picking up orders for ventilators, and asked whether Dyson’s involvement in the scheme is because they are Tory donors. The MP said that was “rubbish”.

SNP MP Joanna Cherry took to Twitter to say she was “disappointed but not surprised” by Ross’s avoidance of certain questions following his criticism of the First Minister.

She wrote: “Disappointed but not surprised to hear @Douglas4Moray slither out of questions over ventilator procurement & ignore the failure of FCO to assist UK citizens abroad on #bbcgms while criticising @NicolaSturgeon for protecting construction workers. #coronavirus.”

And across Twitter there was further anger, with Stephen Dedalus writing: "Douglas Ross sounding utterly useless on #bbcgms and disgracefully dogwhistling about belonging to the shambolic UK. Ross now an *expert* on how construction sites operate, pushes line that building sites can operate with social distancing, despite the industry saying it cannot."

This weekend the SNP’s Philippa Whitford called for “full transparency” over the UK Government’s failure to participate in EU-wide efforts to source vital ventilators for coronavirus patients.

She said this should include “how the decision was taken, what the reasoning was and whether the devolved governments had any say in the matter”.

Scotland in lockdown. Shops are closing and newspaper sales are falling fast. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of The National is at stake. Please consider supporting us through this with a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months by following this link: Thanks – and stay safe.