Alister Jack: I have never done government by WhatsApp

The Scottish secretary said his months late submission to the UK Covid Inquiry will be handed over 'imminently'.

I have never done government by WhatsApp, says Alister Jack, as he vows to submit evidence to UK Covid Inquiry Flickr

Alister Jack has said his months late submission to the UK Covid Inquiry should be with officials “imminently”.

The Scottish secretary had been given a deadline for handing over evidence for August 18 before that was extended to September 1.

But more than a month after that it remains overdue.

Lawyers at the inquiry voiced “particular concern” with the Tory minister.

But Jack said his evidence would be with the lawyers “very soon”.

He also claimed he had “never done government by WhatsApp” but said his messages on the platform with Boris Johnson and the former health secretary Matt Hancock had already been submitted.

The UK Covid Inquiry is still waiting on a final submission by Scottish secretary Alister Jack.Getty Images

“We have put in a draft submission,” he told STV News. “Late into the summer, just before recess in came the 29-page questions, there were 160 questions, and we’ve worked our way through those.

“We have put in the draft submission and the full submission will be going in imminently it’s just with the lawyers getting final sign-off.”

Asked to define “imminently”, he said: “Very soon. I’m hoping next week. It’s done. They have the draft. I’m just waiting on the lawyers to sign off and to say it’s now official. I don’t expect any changes.”

‘I have never done government by WhatsApp’

The Scottish secretary said while he did not “do government by WhatsApp” his exchanges with ex-PM Boris Johnson and the former health secretary have already been submitted.

“Funnily enough, I don’t do social media,” he said. “I am sure I am the only cabinet minister who doesn’t.

“I have never done government by WhatsApp but my WhatsApp exchanges with Matt Hanock and Boris Johnson which are entirely relevant are already in.

“There was one WhatsApp group I was involved in that was relevant to Covid at the time and that is with the inquiry and actually they have asked me more questions about that in the 160 questions and my replies have gone in in the draft form which will become an official form hopefully next week.”

The Scottish Government recently handed over WhatsApps to the UK Covid Inquiry.iStock

It comes just a day after the Scottish Government met the November 6 deadline to hand over messages from officials on the platform.

On Monday, it sent more than 14,000 WhatsApp messages to the UK Government probe into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came following a row over the messages was sparked last month when Jamie Dawson KC, counsel to the UK inquiry, said “no messages” from within the Scottish Government had yet been provided.

Robison last week confirmed that the Scottish Government had received a legal notice known as a Section 21 order permitting it to hand over the messages.

FM Humza Yousaf was among those to confirm he would hand over his messages to the investigation, despite press reports suggesting predecessor Nicola Sturgeon, as well as national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch and chief medical officer Dr Sir Gregor Smith deleted their messages.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said the messages had now been sent in full, but said they would not be providing a “running commentary” on the status of the probe.

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