Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood has quit after it was revealed she broke her own advice on coronavirus social distancing, spending two weekends at her holiday home.
In a statement on Sunday night (local time), more than seven hours after insisting she would carry on despite being warned by police over the travel to her second home, Dr Calderwood said she had again discussed the controversy with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and concluded her position was untenable.
Photographs of Dr Calderwood visiting her holiday home in Earlsferry, on the east coast of Scotland – about an hour’s drive from the capital, Edinburgh – last Friday night were published in the Scottish Sun.
Her husband and three children were with her.
On Sunday, Dr Calderwood also revealed that – despite being the voice of the Scottish government’s public information campaign urging people to avoid all non-essential travel – she and her husband had also visited Earlsferry the previous weekend.
The United Kingdom is in a police-enforced lockdown to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Under the rules, Britons must stay at home unless for one of a few “very limited purposes” such as getting food or medical attention or going to work.
Public gatherings of more than two people are also banned and non-essential shops have been closed.
“I did not follow the advice I’m giving to others, I’m truly sorry for that,” Dr Calderwood said in Edinburgh on Sunday.
“People across Scotland know what they need to do to reduce the spread of this virus and that means they must have complete trust in those who give them advice. It is with a heavy heart that I resign as chief medical officer.”
Earlier, Dr Calderwood said she had seen comments calling her a hypocrite and saying she was irresponsible.
“What I did was wrong. I’m very sorry,” she said.
“I know how important the advice is I have issued. I do not want my mistake to distract for that.”
She also apologised to police and National Health Service colleagues.
Police Scotland said officers had spoken to Dr Calderwood about her actions and had warned her about her future conduct.
“The legal instructions on not leaving your home without a reasonable excuse apply to everyone,” Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said.
“Individuals must not make personal exemptions bespoke to their own circumstances. It is vital everyone adheres to these requirements.”
Ms Sturgeon had initially asked Dr Calderwood only to step back as a public face of the coronavirus battle. Later, she said she agreed the controversy was damaging the government’s message.
“It is 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,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“That is not a risk either of us is willing to take.”
Scotland has had 3345 coronavirus cases and the death toll stands at 218.