Scotland’s First Minister has confirmed his Government will comply with demands to supply all email and WhatsApp messages requested by the Covid-19 inquiries.
Humza Yousaf said Scottish ministers will “fully abide by the rules” set out by both the UK and Scottish inquiries into the handling of the pandemic.
It comes as the Scottish inquiry issued ‘do not destroy’ letters urging key organisations, including the Scottish Government, to ensure any information deemed relevant to the probe were retained.
During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar asked if all past and present ministers comply with the order.
Mr Yousaf replied: “Yes, they will,” adding: “To ensure there is simply no doubt whatsoever, any material that is asked for: WhatsApp messages, emails, signals, telegrams, whatever is asked for or requested; will absolutely be handed over to the Covid inquiries and handed over to them in full.”
Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, and her then-deputy, John Swinney, gave evidence to the UK inquiry prior to FMQs on Thursday.
A transparency row emerged between the UK inquiry bosses and the Westminster government after WhatsApp messages from senior aides were redacted.
Mr Sarwar responded, saying the First Minister’s assurance was “really significant” and asked for the guarantee to be supplied in writing.
He added: “Covid took a heavy toll on everyone across this country and we continue to feel its impact.
“The least we can expect is that when grieving families come looking for answers, this SNP Government provides them because we know sadly that this is a government famed for a culture of secrecy and cover up.”
Mr Sarwar also urged the First Minister to clarify whether he expected the Scottish inquiry to have concluded by the next Scottish election in 2026.
While the UK inquiry began in August, the Scottish investigation has been hit with delays after four members of the inquiry’s legal team and former chair Lady Poole quit last year.
Mr Sarwar said: “This is important for thousands of families who have lost a loved one, to NHS and care staff and to everyone across Scotland who will be frustrated by the Scottish inquiry running behind because we must learn the lessons of the pandemic.”
The First Minister said it would be “deeply inappropriate” for him to intervene in an independent public inquiry.
But he added: “Of course, we want the Covid inquiry to be delivered at speed. What I will say to Anas Sarwar is having met the bereaved families myself, I can completely understand why they want that Covid inquiry to move at pace.
“It’s so important that the Covid inquiry takes the necessary steps it has to, to get those answers in a transparent way and manner.”