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Scotland’s chief medical officer 'truly sorry' for visiting second home after she was given police warning

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Dr Catherine Calderwood has apologised for visiting her second home. Credit: PA

Scotland’s chief medical officer has said she is "truly sorry" for not following coronavirus guidelines when she visited her family's second home in Fife, after she received a police warning.

Dr Catherine Calderwood said she did not follow the advice she had been giving to others to stay home and visited her second home on two consecutive weekends.

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing, she said: "People have told me I'm irresponsible, that I've behaved as if my advice does not apply to me.

"I want people to know that I have seen all that, and I have heard the comments.

"What I did was wrong, I'm very sorry, it will not happen again."

Dr Calderwood said she will 'continue to focus' on her job after speaking to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Credit: PA

Police visited Dr Calderwood, who "spoke to her about her actions" and warned her about future conduct.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “Individuals must not make personal exemptions bespoke to their own circumstances.

“It is vital that everyone adheres to these requirements."

Dr Calderwood said "this was a mistake, human error" but she added there are "no excuses."

Despite facing calls from politicians to stand down, she said she has spoken to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and will “continue to focus” on her job of advising ministers over the outbreak.

However Dr Calderwood has been withdrawn from future media briefings and will no longer feature in a revised public information campaign, the First Minister confirmed.

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Addressing Scotland's chief medical officer's trip to her second home, Ms Sturgeon said: "The chief medical officer made a mistake in travelling away from her home. Whatever her reasons for doing so it was wrong and she knows that.

She added: "All of us, including me, will make mistakes in these unprecedented times we are living in. When we do we must be candid about it and learn from it."

She said the CMO is learning from her error, and added: "Over the past few weeks, as we have been dealing with this crisis, her advice and expertise has been invaluable to me."

She added that "not withstanding her mistake on this, she is doing extremely well".

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Photos of Dr Calderwood and her family near a coastal retreat in Earlsferry were published in The Scottish Sun late 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.

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

In a statement published on her Twitter account, Dr Calderwood said: “I wish to apologise unreservedly for the issue reported in the media today.

“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.”

Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said there was no doubt Dr Calderwood’s visit – which the Scottish Government confirmed was an overnight stay to “check on a family home” – was “ill-advised”.

He added: “I’m saying to everybody… do not go out except in the very exceptional circumstances that are listed, think about these things and remember by breaking them you are risking lives.”

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Scottish Police Federation general secretary Calum Steele said policing the pandemic had been made more difficult and stressed checking on a second home is not one of the “reasonable excuses” providing an exception to emergency coronavirus legislation.

He tweeted: “In defending the indefensible has the Scottish Government not just thrown the CMO under the bus? Checking on a 2nd home is not one of the prescribed reasonable excuses.”

In a joint statement, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and Wendy Chamberlain, the MSP and MP respectively for the area where Dr Calderwood has her second home, said: “It is difficult to see how the chief medical officer will be able to carry the important messages about the virus and the lockdown if she has not even followed it herself.”

They added: “If we are going to get through this pandemic we need medical leaders who everyone can follow. It is with great regret that we say that the chief medical officer will need to go.”

Last month, the Scottish Government issued a travel warning criticising the “irresponsible behaviour” of people with second homes and campervans travelling to the Highlands in a bid to isolate.

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