Nicola Sturgeon analysis: He who has never forgotten their mask in Tesco may cast the first stone

The First Minister’s error of not having her mask on in a pub while at a funeral for a Scottish Government colleague will hurt public health more than her.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wears a face mask before she was pictured without one
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wears a face mask before she was pictured without one

After all, he who has never forgotten their mask in Tesco may cast the first stone.

That may not stop inevitable calls for Sturgeon to step aside, but while it may irk people who have begrudgingly or hatefully watched the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefings and scowled and scoffed at the public health messaging, it would be disproportionate to expect the First Minister to step down.

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This is not equivalent to Margaret Ferrier or Dominic Cummings knowingly spreading a highly infectious virus hundreds of miles across the country, it is instead a momentary lapse. A sign the First Minister is human.

It is also forgivable.

Sturgeon has done what Cummings should have done, apologising immediately, admitting the error, and expressing contrition.

She has not doubled down, justifying it despite the obvious mistake and she will be rewarded for that.

That might be painful for some of the SNP’s opposition to hear, but there are more people furious at the fact Margaret Ferrier is still an MP than those annoyed at the First Minister.

Some will claim she would be calling for the head of Boris Johnson or Douglas Ross should they have made the same mistake, but that would be out of character.

Sturgeon is a wiser politician than that and like opposition parties in Scotland will do so today, would instead highlight how the mistake undermines the public health message.

And this is where the real damage will be felt.

Scottish politics is deeply polarised along independence lines and there will now be thousands of foaming-at-the-mouth SNP opponents fuming at the hypocrisy of being asked to stay at home, not go to the pub, and being told their children cannot go to school – all while the First Minister fails to wear a mask.

Sturgeon’s mistake will undermine the work of police enforcing face covering legislation and of retail and hospitality workers and teachers who are simply trying to stay safe.

She will be kicking herself – it was stupid – but it won’t finish her.

It will, however, dent trust between her and the public and make tackling this virus much more difficult.

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