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Sturgeon arrives for day of evidence at UK Covid inquiry

Nicola Sturgeon has arrived at the UK Covid-19 inquiry ahead of giving evidence amid ongoing scrutiny around the deletion of WhatsApp messages.

Scotland’s former first minister will give evidence for a full day as the inquiry holds hearings in Edinburgh.

Several figures in Ms Sturgeon’s government have already faced questions at the inquiry about their deletion of WhatsApp messages during the pandemic.

Ms Sturgeon has conceded that messages had not been retained on her own devices but said she has managed to retrieve copies to submit to the probe.

Informal messages were handed over to the inquiry last year, she said.

Scottish government ministers and officials have said decisions were routinely recorded on the official system even if messages were deleted in line with policy.

Last week, Ms Sturgeon’s former chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, gave evidence to the inquiry.

After message exchanges between the pair were shown in evidence, Ms Lloyd denied a decision about guest limits on weddings during the pandemic was made “on the hoof”.

In one message seen by the inquiry, Ms Sturgeon referred to then prime minister Boris Johnson as a “f****** clown.”

Current first minister Humza Yousaf, in his evidence to the inquiry last Thursday, offered an “unreserved” apology for the Scottish government’s “frankly poor” handling of requests for WhatsApp messages.

He has announced an external review into the government’s use of mobile messaging.

Scotland’s current first minister Humza Yousaf appeared at the inquiry last week

Ms Sturgeon may also face questions about her decision to provide public health expert Professor Devi Sridhar with her SNP email address to be contacted “privately”.

It is understood Ms Sturgeon forwarded any such emails to the Scottish government and offered to supply the inquiry with them if required.

Former Scottish government ministers Kate Forbes and John Swinney gave evidence to the inquiry yesterday.

Mr Swinney said he “manually” deleted messages between himself, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Yousaf in a practice which could date back to 2007.

The inquiry was earlier told that meetings of senior ministers outside the cabinet – known as the “gold command” – were not minuted.

Ms Forbes said she was “surprised” that these and Scottish government resilience room meetings were not minuted.

Demonstrators outside the Covid-19 Inquiry hearing at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Discussing the external review into messaging, a Scottish government spokeswoman said: “As the First Minister outlined, he has commissioned an externally-led review into the use of mobile messaging apps and non-corporate technology in the Scottish government.

“This will take particular account of government interaction with statutory public inquiries.

“During this period, we will continue to keep our records management policy under review in line with legislation.

“The external review will inform a wider internal records management policy review.

“More detail on the external and internal reviews will be given in due course.”


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