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Tories were trying to ‘make a buck’ during pandemic – Freeman

Jeane Freeman now has an ambassador role with the Univesity of Glasgow (Andy Buchanan/PA)
Jeane Freeman now has an ambassador role with the Univesity of Glasgow (Andy Buchanan/PA)

Some Conservatives were trying to “make a buck” around PPE contracts during the pandemic, former Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman has said as she condemned the “sickening” behaviour.

In an interview with the Herald newspaper, Ms Freeman hit out at Downing Street’s PPE procurement process during the early part of the pandemic.

The former minister, who stood down as an MSP at the 2021 Holyrood election, spoke about her experience as the coronavirus crisis unfolded.

In January this year, the UK Government’s use of “VIP lane” contracts to supply PPE when the virus first began to spread was found to be unlawful.

Nurse in PPE
There were issues with PPE supplies in the early stages of the pandemic (PA)

Ms Freeman told the newspaper: “I had two thoughts when Downing Street’s PPE shenanigans became evident: thank f*** we didn’t need to rely on them for PPE because we’ve got our own procurement systems in place, and they were good and they worked.

“Especially when it came to creating new distribution routes and networks. So, thank God. And, by the way, we gave the UK Government some of our PPE supplies.

“The second thought was: ‘Dear God! There are some Tories who will always be Tories, eh?

“That in the midst of a vast human tragedy and all the heartache and suffering and sense of national crisis that these people would still find a way to make a buck. It was absolutely sickening.”

Nicola Sturgeon
Jeane Freeman hailed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership during the coronavirus outbreak (PA)

Ms Freeman, who was health secretary from June 2018 until she left Holyrood and was appointed to an ambassador role at the University of Glasgow earlier this year, also spoke about First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership during the pandemic.

She said the SNP leader treated her ministers with respect, adding: “I think her view is: ‘I’ve just made you a Government minister because I believe you can do the job. I’m no’ your mammy; I’m no’ gonnae do the job for you. I’ve got my own job; so could you just get on with it.’”

She continued: “One thing that Nicola said at the start still resonates with me. ‘We’re all learning as we go. But I’m going to treat the public as adults. I’m going to tell them what I know; I’m going to tell them what I don’t know, and I’m going to tell them why we decided to do what we did.’

“That was the standard we set and tried to stick to throughout it all.”