A PROFESSOR has said that he was “impressed” by Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of Covid-19.

Stephen Reicher, a professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews, was speaking with Sky News host on Thursday morning, one day after the former first minister’s appearance before the UK Covid Inquiry.

The former member of the Scottish Government’s Covid advisory group was asked what he made of Sturgeon’s handling of the pandemic.

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Reicher said: "I was impressed by Nicola Sturgeon. She knew what she was talking about. She was sharp. She was on top of things."

He then added that – having watched and appeared before the Inquiry – the past few weeks had been “fascinating”, calling it a “celebrity soap opera”.

The academic added, however: "The really big issue, and what I understood the Inquiry to be about, is to understand the fundamental systemic issues so we are better prepared next time round. It’s not about individuals, it’s about building back better. And these large systemic issues have largely been ignored for the short term political tittle tattle.”

The Sky News host then pressed Reicher on the deletion of WhatsApp messages, which he said could impact transparency and make it harder to find out how decisions were made more precisely.

The academic responded by saying that transparency was important and that major research has found that trust in government was “essential to Covid outcomes”.

He added: “Actually, when you look at the evidence, by and large, the Scottish Government did fairly well.

“If you ask questions like do you trust the government or will you do what the government asks you to do, in Scotland 70 to 80% of people consistently said yes. In England it was much lower, as low as 20 to 30% at times.”

Reicher also said there were other important issues beyond WhatsApp retention that were not addressed, including how the pandemic affected various people and communities differently – from the poor and marginalised to different ethnic groups.

He also slammed the media reaction, saying he was “disappointed” the big non-political issues weren’t picked up.