Nicola Sturgeon issues warning over end of free lateral flow tests

The Scottish First Minister said it would be ‘completely wrong’ if decisions made by the UK Government constrain her ministers.

18 February 2022

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted it would be “completely wrong” if a decision to scrap free lateral flow tests for Covid-19 in England impacts public health decisions in Scotland.

The Scottish First Minister was speaking amid ongoing talks between the UK’s four administrations on the issue.

Lateral flow devices are free of charge in the UK, but there have been reports that the UK Government is to scrap this.

Ms Sturgeon refused to say what Boris Johnson will announce, but did state that press reports “seem to me to be in the ballpark of what the UK Government is deciding”.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon said there should not be a sudden stop to Covid testing (Jane Barlow/PA)

The First Minister made clear she does “not think a hard, sudden stop to all testing is appropriate”.

Instead, she argued there should be a “careful, properly thought-out phased transition to perhaps what later in the year – all being well – might be a more targeted approach to testing”.

Speaking to the PA news agency, she said: “We are in discussions with the UK Government as we speak. There have been official discussions all week. I actually have a four-nations ministerial discussion about this later this afternoon.

“What we’re trying to achieve is – whatever the UK Government decides for England, which is their right, whether I think it’s right or wrong – that they don’t, through whatever happens to the funding flows, constrain the ability of the devolved administrations to have the approach we think is right in terms of public health.

Lateral flow tests are currently free (Danny Lawson/PA)

“Those discussions are ongoing. Hopefully they will allow us to do what we think is right and obviously I’ll set out our new strategy to Parliament on Tuesday.”

Ms Sturgeon is due to detail the Scottish Government’s updated Covid strategy on Tuesday – the day after Mr Johnson outlines his plans for easing England’s remaining restrictions.

With talks ongoing, Ms Sturgeon said she hopes they would “get to a positive place that allows me to set out to Parliament on Tuesday an approach that I think is right for Scotland and, crucially, an approach that is in line with our public health advice”.

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