SCOTLAND’S Chief Medical Officer has apologised after being accused of breaching the civil service code by promoting an SNP political attack on social media.
Professor Sir Gregor Smith retweeted a post by SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf that said Boris Johnson was using the Covid crisis for political ends.
The Scottish Tories said Prof Smith’s conduct had been “inappropriate” and this morning demanded an explanation.
They also wrote to the Scottish Government’s most senior civil servant, the Permanent Secretary John Paul Marks, about the matter.
In a bid to defuse the row, Prof Smith has now deleted the tweet and acknowledged it was a mistake.
He wrote on Twitter just after 1.30pm: “Yesterday, I RT [retweeted] a message from the Cab Sec as an attempt to contribute to the debate on the isolation period.
“However, on reflection it is clear this contained political messaging alongside the public health info. I have therefore withdrawn the RT and apologise for passing it on.”
Yesterday, I RT a message from the Cab Sec as an attempt to contribute to the debate on the isolation period. However, on reflection it is clear this contained political messaging alongside the public health info. I have therefore withdrawn the RT and apologise for passing it on.
— Prof Sir Gregor Smith (@DrGregorSmith) February 10, 2022
The Prime Minister announced yesterday that he expected to end the legal requirement for people testing positive for Covid in England to self-isolate later this month.
All remaining Covid restrictions in England are due to expire on March 24, but in a surprise announcement Mr Johnson told PMQs it could happen a month early.
He said he intended to outline his plan after the Westminster recess ending on February 21.
The timing of the pre-announcement, on the eve of a break when many Tory MPs were expected to be thinking about the PM’s future, provoked widespread scepticism, as did the absence of supporting scientific evidence.
Opposition parties questioned whether the PM was motivated more by trying to boost his popularity with his backbenchers than the state of the pandemic or risk of infection.
Mr Yousaf tweeted afterwards: “Let’s call it what it is, this announcement is an attempt to distract & deflect scrutiny over PM’s behaviour.
“We haven’t seen detail (doubt they have thought it through) and have asked for public health advice this decision was based on, unsurprisingly it hasn’t been forthcoming.”
It was this overtly political line that Professor Smith then retweeted.
As a secondee to the Scottish Government, Prof Smith is expected to comply with the Civil Service Code and its core values, which include “objectivity and impartiality”.
Tory MSP Sue Webber said: “It is inappropriate for a civil servant to be promoting political messaging.
“The Civil Service Code emphasises the need for impartiality and objectivity. Those requirements appear to have been clearly broken in this instance.
“He has done good work throughout the pandemic but Professor Smith should be above these SNP political attacks.
“We need to hear a clear explanation from the Chief Medical Officer. I certainly do not understand how he could possibly think this is acceptable.”
This is the sort of partisanship you’d expect from Humza, but why is Scotland’s CMO, a supposedly non-political official, retweeting it? pic.twitter.com/rOdhVXkTU1
— Adam Tomkins (@ProfTomkins) February 9, 2022
Former Tory MSP Adam Tomkins, a law professor at Glasgow University, tweeted: “This is the sort of partisanship you’d expect from Humza, but why is Scotland’s CMO, a supposedly non-political official, retweeting it?”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Chief Medical Officer has deleted the retweet and apologised. We have received the letter from Ms Webber and will respond in due course.”