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FMQs: SNP’s ‘purely political’ Covid decisions the ‘ultimate betrayal’ of public

Humza Yousaf today admitted the scandal of deleted WhatsApp messages during the pandemic “has not been, frankly, the government’s finest hour”.

Douglas Ross said there is evidence of a “cover-up” and a "top-down culture of secrecy" throughout the SNP Government after it emerged the then-First Minister, Deputy First Minister, National Clinical Director and Chief Medical Officer all deleted their WhatsApp messages.

The Scottish Conservative leader also highlighted evidence at the UK Covid Inquiry which suggested the SNP made decisions for “purely political” reasons to provoke a "good old fashioned rammy" with the UK Government.

At First Minister’s Questions, Douglas Ross said evidence at the UK Covid Inquiry from Nicola Sturgeon’s former chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, confirmed decisions were made “on the hoof” by the SNP on WhatsApp. 

He accused Humza Yousaf of misleading the public when he claimed that “the Scottish Government did not routinely make decisions through WhatsApp”.

On Thursday at the UK Covid Inquiry, messages from Liz Lloyd were published showing she advised making “purely political” moves on public health to start “a good old fashioned rammy” with the UK Government.

In another note, she talks of “political tactics – calling for things we can’t do.”

Liz Lloyd's messages also revealed that Covid decisions were unquestionably made on WhatsApp, despite Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon previously claiming otherwise.

Nicola Sturgeon said she was “not sure what to” do about the number of people at weddings and funerals. Her chief of staff responded: “I think as we only just put them up just leave it… I think we stay at 20.”

Humza Yousaf replied, to derision in the chamber, that he stood by his comment on WhatsApp not being used for government decision-making, by stressing his use of the word “routinely”.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “During the pandemic, Nicola Sturgeon made government decisions on WhatsApp, but deleted all the evidence of crucial discussions.

“She broke promises to grieving families. She may have broken the law. Humza Yousaf must accept it was completely wrong and utterly scandalous for Nicola Sturgeon to delete those messages.

“A culture of secrecy was rife through the entire government.

“It looks like most senior figures have engaged in a deliberate cover up.

“The SNP Government disregarded FOI law and a legal ‘do not destroy’ order.

“The SNP Government misled the public over crucial Covid decisions which were made and discussed on WhatsApp, despite Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon’s claims otherwise.

“It was pathetic that he claimed today he hadn’t misled parliament because he’d only said WhatsApp messages weren’t ‘routinely’ used for decision-making. That amounts to an admission of wrongdoing.

“Humza Yousaf should be ashamed that the SNP Government made ‘purely political’ decisions to start a ‘good old fashioned rammy’ with the UK Government during a pandemic.

“This is the ultimate betrayal of the public who sacrificed so much during Covid.”