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WhatsApp row: Scottish Government accused of ‘torching evidence’ to Covid inquiry

Humza Yousaf faced questions on the ongoing WhatsApp row at FMQs | Alamy

WhatsApp row: Scottish Government accused of ‘torching evidence’ to Covid inquiry

Douglas Ross has accused the Scottish Government of “building a bonfire to torch evidence” amid reports ministers and senior officials deleted WhatsApp messages from during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Tory leader also suggested that in doing so, individuals may have broken the law.

First Minister Humza Yousaf highlighted the government was to hand over 14,000 messages to the UK Covid inquiry.

He added he would provide his own WhatsApp messages to the inquiry in full.

The exchange took place at the weekly FMQs session.

It follows days of reports that ministers and officials had made use of an auto-delete function which meant some material had not been retained and could therefore not be passed to the inquiry.

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison confirmed on Tuesday the government would hand over the messages by 6 November, and “advice has been sought” on whether it is possible to recover deleted material.

Ross said: “Destroying or withholding evidence from an inquiry is illegal. So does Humza Yousaf accept that if Nicola Sturgeon or any government minister has destroyed WhatsApp messages relevant to the inquiry, they would be breaking the law?”

He added: “We don't know what the truth is because messages have been deleted.”

And Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar urged the FM to “take personal responsibility” for ensuring all messages from ministers, former ministers and officials are provided to the inquiry, not just his own.

He added: “To abdicate responsibility I think is frankly shameful.”

Yousaf said thousands of messages were being given to the inquiry by the government, in addition to his own "unredacted" WhatsApps.

He said: “I can give an unequivocal guarantee to those families who have been bereaved by Covid taht the messages that we have retained will absolutely be handed over and handed over in full.”

He added: “We certainly do not have anything to fear from the truth.”

 

 

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