The Levelling Up Secretary seemed completely stumped after being prompted to pay tribute to the outgoing Scottish First Minister as he appeared on the BBC‘s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme.
Mr Gove stared at the floor and frowned as the presenter waited patiently for his verdict on the SNP chief.
The Tory minister finally managed: ‘I don’t want to say anything bad or… what’s the word, negative about Nicola Sturgeon.
‘Because I think that she is a dedicated public servant and she has devoted her life to public service.
‘And as First Minister of Scotland I worked with her during the pandemic. I know that she was committed to coming to the right conclusions in the interests of the people of Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon, who has spent more than eight years in office, opened a £33million treatment centre in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on Friday in her final public engagement as First Minister
Mr Gove seemed completely stumped after being prompted to pay tribute to Ms Sturgeon today
‘I fundamentally disagree with her on many things, but I wish her well.’
Ms Sturgeon’s successor as SNP leader will be announced tomorrow after a bad-tempered campaign triggered by her surprise resignation.
Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes or Ash Regan will then be installed as the new First Minister on Tuesday following a vote at Holyrood.
Around 72,000 SNP members have been voting since 13 March to choose which of the trio should take the reins.
Ms Sturgeon has defended her record and insisted that her departure is not due to the row over her abortive attempt to loosen gender identity rules, struggling health services, or the dwindling prospect of an independence referendum.
Carrying out her final engagement on Friday, opening the National Treatment Centre for orthopaedic surgery at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Ms Sturgeon said she was ‘100 per cent certain’ her resignation was ‘the right thing’.
‘Of course I’ve got mixed emotions, this is a job like no other,’ she told Heart radio.
‘I’ve loved it, it’s been really hard – I’ve led Scotland through the toughest period for all of us in our recent history.
‘Stepping away from that is a wrench, the adjustment after 16 years in government to not being in government is going to be, I guess, really difficult.’
Ms Sturgeon noted how Wednesday morning will be ‘the first time in 16 years I will wake up with no government responsibilities’.
‘I don’t yet know what I’m going to do – maybe have a lie in, I’ve taken up hill walking, maybe go for a walk up a hill somewhere,’ she added.
One of Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (left), Finance Secretary Kate Forbes (middle) or former community safety minister Ash Regan (right) will become Ms Sturgeon’s successor
‘So if I was to sum up how I’m feeling right now, it’s excited and a wee bit terrified in equal measure.’
Ms Sturgeon has also revealed she is in the ‘early stages’ of learning how to drive.
Mr Yousaf, a close ally of Ms Sturgeon, is the bookies’ odds-on favourite to become the new SNP leader.
But he will face an immediate challenge in maintaining the coalition between the SNP and Scottish Greens at Holyrood.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie has warned his party could pull out of the powersharing deal if the Scottish Government, under a new SNP leader, tried to row back on their 2021 Bute House Agreement.
Both Ms Forbes and Ms Regan have failed to publicly back Holyrood’s controversial gender identity reforms, which the Scottish Greens support, while a deposit return scheme could also be a challenge to the deal.
All three candidates have pledged to change or pause the legislation aimed at encouraging greater recycling of bottles and cans.