First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she “needs” Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood to remain in place to help steer the government through the coronavirus crisis.
Ms Sturgeon was speaking at a briefing in Edinburgh after Dr Calderwood was pictured visiting her second home in Fife.
The First Minister said: “The chief medical officer made a mistake in travelling away from her home, whatever her reasons. She was wrong and knows that.
“It was not in line with the advice we are asking everyone to follow. She has unreservedly apologised to me and the public.
“I’ve said this from this podium before that all of us, including me, will make mistakes in this unprecedented times we are living in.
“When we do, we must be candid about it and learn from it. That is what I know the chief medical officer is doing.”
She said Dr Calderwood’s advice and expertise over the past few weeks during the pandemic has been “invaluable”.
“If I am to do what I need to do and steer the country through this crisis to the best of my ability, I need her focused on the job she is doing”, Ms Sturgeon said.
“A job that, not withstanding her mistake, she is doing extremely well.
“I am not expecting you not to be angry about this mistake, nor is she. But I am asking you to consider the wider importance to the government and by extension the country of being able to count on the expertise of the chief medical officer.”
Dr Calderwood also appeared at the briefing and reiterated her apology tweeted earlier today.
She also confirmed this weekend’s visit was not the first. She admitted she paid a similar visit last weekend
Dr Calderwood admitted she had not followed the guidance she has issued to the public during the lockdown.
She said: “I did not follow the advice I am giving to others. I’m truly sorry for that.
“I’ve seen a lot of the comments from members of the public on twitter today. People calling me a hypocrite. People telling me about the hardships they have endured while following my guidance.”
She said “people have told me I am irresponsible, that I have behaved as if my advice does not apply to me. I want people to know I have seen all of that”.
“What I did was wrong. I’m very sorry. It will not happen again.”
Dr Calderwood said she knows how important the advice she has issued is and does not “want my mistake to distract from that”.
“I don’t want to make the jobs of the police or my NHS colleagues any harder. And I apologise to them as well”, she added.
“I have a job to do as chief medical officer to provide advice to ministers on the path of this virus and to support the medical profession as they work night and day to save lives.
“This was a mistake, human error and there are no excuses. I should not have done what I did. I’m very sorry about that.”
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone revealed local officers have visited Dr Calderwood and spoken to her about her actions, reiterated crucial advice and “issued a warning about her future conduct, all of which she accepted”.
“The legal instructions on not leaving your home without a reasonable excuse apply to everyone,” he said.
Dr Calderwood apologised for taking up officers’ time on this “when it could have been avoided”.
“Having spoken to First Minister this morning, my intention is to focus on my job”, she added.
The First Minister was then grilled for more than half an hour by members of the Scottish press about the fact the CMO made two visits to her holiday home and whether the public could still trust her.
Ms Sturgeon reiterated the importance of Dr Calderwood’s advice in the “wider picture” of getting through the pandemic.
In a statement after the briefing, Ms Sturgeon confirmed Dr Calderwood was withdrawing from the daily updates and she would also no longer feature in the Scottish Government’s advertising campaign.
She said: “I am acutely aware of the importance of public trust in the advice the government is giving to stay at home in order to save lives and protect our NHS.
“To maintain that trust we will be revising our public information campaign and the chief medical officer will be withdrawing from media briefings for the foreseeable future.
“She will continue to provide the Scottish Government with the scientific and medical advice on the spread of coronavirus.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Labour have called for Dr Calderwood to resign.
In a joint statement, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and Wendy Chamberlain, the MSP and MP respectively for the area where Dr Calderwood has her second home, said: “If we are going to get through this pandemic we need medical leaders who everyone can follow. It is with great regret that we say that the chief medical officer will need to go.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon also called for Dr Calderwood to stand down, Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said her position is “untenable”, and the Scottish Greens said she can “no longer credibly front” the public health campaign.
Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said there is no doubt Dr Calderwood’s visit – which the Scottish Government confirmed was an overnight stay to “check on a family home” – was “ill-advised”.
Mr Russell added: “I’m saying to everybody… do not go out except in the very exceptional circumstances that are listed, think about these things and remember by breaking them you are risking lives.”
Only go out when absolutely necessary’ — What Dr Calderwood asked of the public
Dr Calderwood has been the public voice of television and radio adverts running across Scotland appealing for people to stay at home to save lives.
In the adverts, she said: “To help save lives, stay at home.
“Anyone can spread coronavirus. Only go out when absolutely necessary for food, medicine, work or exercise.
“Always stay two metres apart and do not meet others outside your own household, even friends and family.
“Stay home. Protect Scotland’s NHS. And save lives.”