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by Louise Wilson
31 October 2023
Humza Yousaf admits it was Scottish Government policy to delete WhatsApp messages

Questions have been raised about ministers being unable to provide Covid inquiries with all relevant information | Alamy Stock Photo

Humza Yousaf admits it was Scottish Government policy to delete WhatsApp messages

Humza Yousaf has said it was Scottish Government policy to “routinely delete” WhatsApp messages at the time of the coronavirus pandemic.

The First Minister, responding to journalists on Monday, also said he had retained his own messages and he “fully intends to hand them over” to the UK and Scottish Covid inquiries.

His comments follow questions being raised over the course of the last week about ministers being unable to provide the public inquiries with all relevant information due to a trend of deleting messages sent via messaging service WhatsApp.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross challenged Yousaf on the matter during FMQs last week following reports that no messages relating to key decisions had been provided to the inquiries.

And the Sunday Mail has since reported that former first minister Nicola Sturgeon had not retained key communications, alongside around 70 other Scottish Government figures.

The paper said WhatsApp messages sent by Sturgeon were manually deleted from her phone.

Yousaf said: “I’m confident that the former first minister can speak for herself in terms of what she has kept, what she’s retained and what she hasn’t done, and the rationale for that.

“Remember, of course, we had a social media messaging policy which actually required us to routinely delete WhatsApp messages and that was the policy at the time.

“The ‘do not destroy’ notice is one that I expect everybody to comply with, Scottish Government ministers, former ministers, and of course government officials and clinical directors and clinical advisers. That is my expectation.”

Meanwhile, Ross has urged Sturgeon to make a statement to parliament on the matter, saying the “public deserves answers” to questions about why such messages were deleted and when.

Backbench MSPs are able to make a personal statement to the chamber through a rarely-used parliamentary rule, at the discretion of the presiding officer.

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