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by Louise Wilson
15 November 2023
Humza Yousaf and Shona Robison see off calls for investigation into misleading parliament

Ross's motion calls on Yousaf and Robison to “refer themselves to the independent adviser on the Scottish Ministerial Code | Alamy

Humza Yousaf and Shona Robison see off calls for investigation into misleading parliament

Humza Yousaf and Shona Robison have seen off an attempt to have them investigated for potentially misleading parliament.

MSPs voted on a Scottish Conservatives motion before parliament that would have instructed the first minister and deputy first minister to “refer themselves to the independent adviser on the Scottish Ministerial Code for a potential breach”.

But with the support of SNP and Green MSPs, that motion was amended by the government by 63 votes to 53.

During the debate, Douglas Ross accused the first minister and deputy first minister of misleading the Scottish Parliament over statements relating to information being sent to the UK Covid Inquiry.

Robison denied the charge but accepted the Scottish Government had interpreted requests for information “too narrowly”.

The row is related to the Scottish Government failing to supply the inquiry with the text of WhatsApp messages. It was claimed in parliament that the inquiry had only made such a request recently.

This was later contradicted by a written statement from Robison which confirmed the inquiry had requested “key communications and significant correspondence, including WhatsApp messages” in February.

Ross said ministers had only provided the inquiry with this information after being “forced to do so”.

He said: “How can we draw any other conclusion that they have not been honest, that they have misled parliament, they have broken the ministerial code.”

The Scottish Ministerial Code says it is “of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to the parliament”.

It also says the ministers who “knowingly mislead” MSPs would be expected to resign.

Ross said: “Both Humza Yousaf and Shona Robison have deliberately misled this parliament.”

Robison denied that either she or the first minister had misled parliament. She said the government had now provided almost 28,000 WhatsApp messages to the inquiry and was “committed to full cooperation”.

She added: “In hindsight, we do recognise that the Scottish Government interpreted the earlier requests for messages from the UK inquiry in a way that was too narrow.”

Labour’s Anas Sarwar, who backed the Conservative motion as well as his own amendment calling for the release of legal advice, said the government had “repeatedly refused to answer even some of the most basic questions”.

“Across this country, people deserve the truth about how life and death decisions were made,” he said.

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