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by Louise Wilson
01 February 2024
Alister Jack ‘wrong’ to delete WhatsApps, says Douglas Ross

Douglas Ross raised the deletion of messages by Scottish Government ministers | Alamy

Alister Jack ‘wrong’ to delete WhatsApps, says Douglas Ross

Alister Jack was “wrong” to delete his WhatsApp messages, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has said.

But he said that while the Scottish Secretary had apologised, Humza Yousaf was still backing his former leader, Nicola Sturgeon.

The comment was made during First Minister's Questions, after Yousaf had pointed to Jack's admission to the Covid Inquiry he had kept no messages from the pandemic.

The first minister also said that his government “could have and should have done better” on the retention of informal messages, highlighting an independent review he has commissioned to consider the matter.

But Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the government had repeatedly promised reviews after concerns about record-keeping which led to nothing, and Covid bereaved families no longer trusted the government.

Sturgeon, who appeared before the inquiry on Wednesday, apologised for a pandemic press conference pledge to hand over all Covid-related WhatsApp messages, though she insisted all “germane” information had been officially recorded.

Earlier today, Jack confirmed to the inquiry that he had deleted all of his messages to make space on his phone.

In the chamber on Thursday, Ross said: “Alister Jack was wrong to delete his WhatsApp messages. He has apologised. Humza Yousaf can't step out the shadow of his disgraced predecessor and say the same.”

And Sarwar said messages had been deleted on an “industrial scale”. He added: “It's not just the messages disappearing – so has the trust in the SNP government.”

Yousaf said the Scottish Government had largely got the “big decisions” right in order to saves lives during the pandemic.

He added: “We could have done better when it comes to the retention of informal messages. But when it comes to steering this country through some of its darkest days, I’m very pleased we had Nicola Sturgeon in charge here, in the Scottish Government, as opposed to Boris Johnson.”

The FM was also quizzed on the apparent politicisation of a decision on the Spain travel ban.

Messages between civil servants expressed concern the Spanish government would block an independent Scotland’s entry to the EU if the travel exemption was not lifted in July 2020.

Ross asked: “Why was independence even considered in a decision about public health?”

But Yousaf said those messages were between civil servants, not ministers, and the suggestion it had impacted on the decision was false because Spain was added to the ban list.

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