SCOTTISH Secretary Alister Jack’s evidence session at the UK Covid Inquiry lasted just 80 minutes.

In contrast, former first minister Nicola Sturgeon was on the stand for more than five hours.

Former deputy first minister John Swinney gave evidence for around two and a half hours, as did former finance secretary Kate Forbes and former health secretary Jeane Freeman.

Swinney, Freeman, and Sturgeon have all also given evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry in London. Jack has not.

Jack had been due to appear at the Covid Inquiry for the first time in the morning of January 25 but pulled out due to a family bereavement.

Sturgeon’s former chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, had been due to appear in the same morning session. She gave evidence for two hours.

For Jack’s appearance on Thursday, February 1, the official UK Covid Inquiry stream said his contribution was to be followed by closing statements.

Both were scheduled to take place between 10am and 4:30pm. The hearing had ended by 1:10pm.

Jack appeared at 10am, and Jamie Dawson KC's final question came roughly 65 minutes later.

The Scottish Secretary was then questioned by Claire Mitchell KC, acting for the Scottish Covid Bereaved, for around 15 more minutes.

When he did give evidence, Jack (below) was asked about comments from former deputy first minister Swinney that he had contributed little to nothing to the Covid response.

The National: Scottish Secretary Alister Jack is giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry on Thursday (UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA)

Jamie Dawson KC put it to Jack: “In his evidence to this inquiry, the former deputy first minister, Mr Swinney, said that he experienced no tangible presence from you in any aspect of the work handling the pandemic in Scotland.

“He was asked when he gave evidence whether he had made efforts to engage you in the pandemic response, and he answered: ‘I think the short answer is probably no, because there was no real value in it.’”

Swinney had added: “In my experience, the Secretary of State for Scotland would have contributed nothing of any useful value.”

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Dawson asked if that was an “accurate reflection of what [Jack had done] on behalf of the people of Scotland during the course of the pandemic”.

The Tory MP responded: “No, absolutely not.”

He said that Swinney, and Sturgeon, were “not on the Christmas card list” before pointing out that he had “ended up in court with them” on multiple occasions.

Swinney had said that it was pointless going to Jack in the Scotland Office for any purpose, and instead would go directly to the relevant UK Government department.

However, Jack insisted: “They've always gone to the director of Whitehall departments because they don't like the Scotland office and they don't like my powers. They made that very clear.

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“All that happens is the Whitehall departments come straight back to us. The strategy doesn't work because the Whitehall departments immediately refer to us for guidance and advice.”

Dawson (below) responded: “In fact, Mr Swinney's position wasn't quite as you describe because his position was that it was only you that were the problem.

“He, in fact, made quite clear that he considered there to have been good relationships between the Scottish government and the Scotland Office under your predecessor [David Mundell].”

The National:

Jack replied: “My predecessor experienced exactly the same as me. When I took over in July 2019 and discussed with him the role, he made the very point to me that I just made to you.”

Politicisation of the pandemic has been a key theme of the Covid Inquiry, with both the Tories and SNP accusing the other of having done so.

Jack told the Inquiry that his job now and through the pandemic was to “go out and strengthen the United Kingdom and sustain the United Kingdom”. “I do that every day of my working life,” he added.

He said that Nicola Sturgeon’s job was to “break up the United Kingdom”.

Jack went on: “Devolution works very well, but it works very well when governments want to work together. When one government wants to destroy the United Kingdom and destroy devolution, then there are tensions.

“So those tensions existed before the pandemic, during the pandemic, and they exist now.”