John Swinney has said leaked footage showing No 10 staff joking about a party held at Downing Street last year is one of the “most appalling things” he has seen in his political life.
The deputy first minister was asked about the footage on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme.
It comes after a clip emerged showing the Prime Minister’s then spokesperson Allegra Stratton fielding mock questions in preparation for press conferences in the media room at 9 Downing Street.
Adviser Ed Oldfield asked Stratton whether she recognised reports of a Downing Street party, held four days earlier.
Oldfield can be heard asking Stratton: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those
Stratton replied “I went home” before appearing to consider what the correct answer should be.
During the rehearsal, filmed as part of a subsequently-abandoned plan for Stratton to lead televised press briefings, one aide is heard saying: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.”
“Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting,” Stratton replied, to laughter in the room.
Stratton then noted “this is recorded”, adding: “This fictional party was a business meeting … and it was not socially distanced.”
Speaking with BBC Scotland, Swinney said that UK ministers had “clearly lied” to the public.
“That video last night is just one of the most appalling things I have seen in my political life,” he said.
“I think it shows contempt at the heart of Downing Street for members of the public, and that is exactly what you do not need at a time of national emergency and of the gravity that we face.
“So the experience that all of us are having to wrestle with in the handling of coronavirus, and particularly Omicron, are dealt a very serious blow by the appalling behaviour by Downing Street.
“By UK Government ministers who have quite clearly lied to the public about this party, and we need to recognise the seriousness of the threat that poses to our efforts on tackling coronavirus.”