Scotland's chief medical officer quits after breaking coronavirus lockdown rules

5 April 2020, 22:13

Dr Catherine Calderwood has quit after being pictured visiting her second home
Dr Catherine Calderwood has quit after being pictured visiting her second home. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Scotland's chief medical officer has resigned after being criticised for not adhering to social distancing advice by visiting her second home.

Dr Catherine Calderwood was pictured visiting her family's second home in Earlsferry, Fife, by the Scottish Sun on Sunday this morning.

Just days earlier, the 51-year-old tweeted a photo of her family at their main residence in Edinburgh as they clapped for the frontline NHS staff working to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Earlsferry is a drive of more than an hour from Edinburgh.

In a statement, Dr Calderwood apologised for her actions and admitted there were not "legitimate" reasons for her to travel to Fife.

It read: "I wish to apologise unreservedly for the issue reported in the media today.

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Dr Calderwood has been tackling the coronavirus pandemic with Nicola Sturgeon
Dr Calderwood has been tackling the coronavirus pandemic with Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA

"While there are reasons for what I did, they do not justify it and they were not legitimate reasons to be out of my home.

"While I and my family followed the guidance on social distancing at all times, I understand that I did not follow the advice I am giving to others, and I am truly sorry for that.

"I know how important this advice is and I do not want my mistake to distract from that.

"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, and having spoken with the First Minister this morning I will continue to focus entirely on that job."

Dr Calderwood initially apologised after photos of herself and her family near a coastal retreat in Earlsferry were published in The Scottish Sun on Saturday.

Just days earlier, the 51-year-old tweeted a photo of her family at their main residence in Edinburgh as they clapped for the frontline NHS staff working to stop the spread of Covid-19.

She was caught visiting her family's holiday home and admitted doing so twice
She was caught visiting her family's holiday home and admitted doing so twice. Picture: PA

Dr Calderwood, who was issued with a police warning over her conduct, told the briefing at the Scottish Government headquarters in Edinburgh on Sunday she had also visited the home in Fife last weekend with her husband.

She will now work with her team "over the next few days to ensure a smooth transition" to her successor.

Ms Sturgeon said she did not know about Dr Calderwood's visits to the home until Saturday night.

The First Minister again backed the doctor's advice, saying: "Dr Calderwood's advice to me, to the government and to people across Scotland over the past few weeks has been the right advice.

"People should continue to stay at home to protect the NHS and to save lives.

"It is however clear that the mistake she made - even though she has apologised sincerely and honourably for it - risks distracting from and undermining confidence in the government's public health message at this crucial time.

"That is not a risk either of us is willing to take."

She also paid tribute to Dr Calderwood, adding: "Catherine has been a transformational CMO, bringing changes to the way medicine is delivered in Scotland and in particular using her experience to bring an overdue focus to women's health.

"Also, as I said earlier, her advice to me on coronavirus will be missed - which is why she will work to ensure a smooth transition in the days ahead.

"While she has made a very serious mistake in her actions, that should not detract from the fact that as CMO she has made a highly valuable contribution to the medical profession and to health in Scotland, and I have no doubt she will continue to do so in future.

"She leaves office with my thanks and admiration."

Earlier on Sunday evening, Ms Sturgeon confirmed Dr Calderwood was withdrawing from the daily updates and would also no longer feature in the Scottish Government's advertising campaign.

Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said officers had visited Dr Calderwood and issued a warning about her conduct.

Mr Livingstone said in a statement: "Earlier today, local officers visited Dr Catherine Calderwood and spoke 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. Social distancing is the key intervention to curtail the spread of coronavirus and it is essential that the instructions are followed to protect each other, take strain from the NHS and save lives.

"Individuals must not make personal exemptions bespoke to their own circumstances."

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