TORY ministers were “afraid” of confrontation with the “formidable” Nicola Sturgeon during the Covid pandemic, according to the First Minister of Wales.

Mark Drakeford, who will leave his role at the head of the Welsh Government in March, made the comments as he spoke to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

Drakeford said: “I have the highest regard for the First Minister of Scotland and First Minister and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland, they were never anything but collegiate people, they took phone calls, they were involved in discussions.

“The UK Government was always anxious about their interactions with the FM of Scotland because she had a different underlying ambition for the future of Scotland and that coloured their attitude towards her.

“She’s also a formidable politician.

“Many UK ministers were afraid of her and would not like to be involved in a confrontational dialogue with her.”

Drakeford added that this was not true of the prime minister, Boris Johnson.

He said that Johnson did not want to give the impression that he was “on par” with first ministers of the devolved nations.

The Welsh Labour leader further claimed it was UK Government policy not to give extra support to devolved governments during the pandemic.

He told the inquiry: “There was a policy position in the Treasury not to support the devolved governments even when we needed it.”

Drakeford claimed this was clear in a debate between Treasury officials following his call in the pandemic for extra money to help support Wales to go into a short "firebreak" lockdown.

“They say that there is a policy of the UK Government not to support the devolved administrations going further than the UK Government on (non-pharmaceutical interventions),” he said.

However, Heather Hallett, the chair of the inquiry, said she was “not sure I’m reading it exactly that way”.

Drakeford further said that Johnson “deliberately” made it unclear that lockdown decisions he made only applied to England.

The Welsh leader told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that the heads of the devolved nations had told the then-prime minister he needed to be clear in a press conference that changes to rules in the pandemic only applied to England.

Drakeford said: “[We said] he must make it clear that what he is about to say does not apply to Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland and he gives assurance in the Cobra meeting that he will do his very best to make sure that he does that.

“He then heads to the cameras, and he provides a script in which the only time he refers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is when he says early in the press conference ‘as the prime minister of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’.

“It is a very clear indication to people that what he’s about to say applied to the whole of the United Kingdom, and he never once says that is not the case.”

Drakeford described this as a “bleak moment” and “deliberate”.