MICHAEL Gove has taken a swipe at Nicola Sturgeon, suggesting she was less professional than other senior ministers in the Scottish Government.

The Levelling Up Secretary’s comments came as he was quizzed by KC Jamie Dawson at the UK Covid Inquiry’s Scottish session in Edinburgh on Monday.

While he acknowledged Sturgeon’s “energy and hard work,” Gove suggested that she had sought to make political points during intergovernmental work sessions, while other ministers such as Kate Forbes had been more constructive.

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Gove said: “You can have people from different political traditions and different political parties whose style or whose outlook means that cooperation can be easier, and it is certainly my experience that there were people in the Scottish Government who were sometimes much more constructive than one or two others.”

Asked if he could identify anyone in particular, Gove said Forbes – who served as finance secretary through the Covid pandemic – was “undoubtedly one of the most constructive” Scottish ministers to work with.

Asked to explain, Gove went on: “In all conversations with Kate Forbes she would eschew any political, not point-scoring but point-making and concentrate on the business in hand.

“There were some other ministers who would sometimes, even as we could come to a satisfactory conclusion, would sometimes preface their points with some political point-making.”

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He added that Matt Hancock had found “dealing with both Jeane Freeman and Humza Yousaf in their roles [as subsequent health secretaries] to be very straightforward as well”.

Dawson then asked: “Do I take it then the other senior ministers who you've not mentioned fall into the other category?”

Gove said: “No. I think it's fair to say that the deputy first minister, John Swinney, was also very professional.”

The National:

Dawson (above) said: “Do I take it then, that the first minister [Sturgeon] falls into the category of other types of people?”

Gove suggested that she did.

He told the Covid Inquiry: “The first minister was, as I characterised earlier, someone who was undoubtedly a focused and disciplined minister, but it would sometimes be the case that there would be a political complexion to some of the points she chose to make.”

Sturgeon is to give evidence to the Covid Inquiry on Wednesday, January 31 in a full-day session.

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Elsewhere in Gove’s evidence session, the Tory minister said that some of the language used by Scottish Government officials led him to believe there was a “desire for differentiation” from the UK Government.

Gove told the inquiry that the “temptation” at “certain points” to seek political advantage is “clearly there” with the Scottish Government, given the “cause to which they have devoted their lives”.

He said: “Some of the language used, the desire to have ‘a good old fashioned rammy with the UK Government’ and some of the other language used which I shan’t repeat now does lead me to believe that at that point, there was a desire to pursue differentiation for the sake of advancing a political agenda.

“I want to take as balanced as an approach that I can, paying tribute to her [Sturgeon’s] energy and hard work in seeking to do what was right while at the same time acknowledging the SNP is a political movement with a clear goal and its members and its leadership have seldom missed an opportunity in other times to seek differentiation to advance their cause.”

The references to a “rammy” came from evidence given to the inquiry by Liz Lloyd, Sturgeon’s former chief of staff.

WhatsApps revealed that Lloyd told the then first minister that she had “set a timetable” for the UK Government to answer the Scottish Government on furlough as a “purely political” move.

Speaking at the inquiry, the former chief of staff defended the move, saying it was a tactic to attempt to get the UK Government to change course on decisions.

Lloyd said: “I was looking for a spat with a purpose. It had been shown in the past that they would sometimes change their mind if they felt that pressure and I wanted them to change their mind.”