Humza Yousaf pledges ‘robust defence’ against claims he misled Holyrood

The Conservatives are using debating time at Holyrood to call for the First Minister and his deputy to refer themselves to the independent adviser.

Humza Yousaf pledges ‘robust defence’ against Tory claims he misled Scottish Parliament PA Media

First Minister Humza Yousaf has promised a “robust defence” to Tory claims he and the Deputy First Minister have misled Holyrood in a row over WhatsApp messages from during the Covid pandemic.

With a timeline showing the UK Covid-19 Inquiry had asked for these to be handed over in February this year, Yousaf last week conceded that the Scottish Government had initially interpreted requests for messages “too narrowly”.

With MSPs previously told the request for the WhatsApp messages was only made in September, the Conservatives insist Yousaf and the deputy First Minister have misled Parliament

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has put forward a motion, to be debated in Holyrood on Wednesday, calling for both Yousaf and deputy First Minister Shona Robison to refer themselves to the independent adviser, to determine if they have breached the ministerial code – which requires ministers to give “accurate and truthful information” to Parliament.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Yousaf said he would “listen to Parliament once it makes a decision” on the matter.

He told the PA news agency: “We will be very robust in that debate and, of course, neither the Deputy First Minister or I have misled Parliament.

“We have provided full context of the requests that have been made and, most importantly, what people care about, is have we handed over the material we had in our possession? The answer to that is absolutely, yes.”

The Scottish Government handed over 14,000 messages to the inquiry, including unredacted correspondence from the First Minister.

Yousaf insisted this was in “very stark contrast” to the UK Government, which lost a court case over giving the inquiry access to messages.

The First Minister went on to accuse the Tories of raising the issue to “distract from the complete boorach, the chaos, that is engulfing their own party” at Westminster.

Yousaf went on to claim if ministers referred themselves for a possible breach of the code “every time the opposition demanded it then the advisers would not have anything else to do, they would be busy with constant referrals”.

The SNP leader said: “I have lost count of how many times the opposition have demanded SNP ministers refer themselves.

“This is also just an attempt by the Conservatives to distract from the complete boorach, the chaos, that is engulfing their own party down in the UK Government.”

He added: “We will robustly defend our position in the debate this afternoon, let’s see what Parliament concludes.”

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