WhatsApp messages released by the UK Covid Inquiry have revealed Humza Yousaf and Jason Leitch using sweary language to insult political opponents.
Scotland’s First Minister – who was then health secretary – referred to former Labour MSP Neil Findlay as a “t***” and an “a**hole”.
Leitch, who remains the country’s national clinical director, accused one Tory MSP of “acting like a child” and described a Labour politician as a “smart a***”.
Papers released by the UK Covid Inquiry show a conversation between the two men on WhatsApp on June 11, 2021, with professor Leitch telling Yousaf he had just led a briefing for MSPs.
While he said the MSPs were “mostly fine” and “very reasonable and predictable”, he added: “Edward Mountain rude and Daniel Johnson a smart a***.
“My mum taught me never to be rude. Mountain was head shaking and harrumphing…like a child.”
Yousaf replied: “Doesn’t surprise me about Mountain or DJ frankly.”
He then tells Leitch that Labour MSP Paul Sweeney would “be one to watch”, saying: “He will tell you how to do your job.”
Leitch said to Yousaf that Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar told him he was “struggling” with Sweeney and another of his MSPs, Mercedes Villalba who the adviser describes as a “new girl” after she was elected to Holyrood that month.
Responding to the comments by Yousaf on social media, Findlay said it showed he did not like to be held to account.
He said Yousaf and Leitch had “utter contempt” for MSPs who were “unwilling to unquestionably accept” what they were being told during the pandemic by the Scottish Government.
“One of the most important jobs of opposition politicians is to hold the government to account,” he added.
In the messages, Yousaf also tells Leitch he is “winging it” in the post.
Yousaf remarked that the pandemic meant “everyone is of course a public health expert”, with Leitch telling him: “You actually are. Three weeks training!”
The minister responds: “I am winging it! And will get found out sooner rather than later.”
In an earlier exchange between the two men, dated May 20, 2021, Leitch complained that he could “barely understand” Scotland’s chief medical officer, Professor Gregor Smith.
He made the remark after Yousaf asked to be kept informed about what media appearances the adviser was doing.
Yousaf said: “Not for permission no, but helpful to know what bids you’re doing so I can catch up as I often plagiarise what you are saying – verbatim…just to make it look like I know what I’m actually talking about.”
Leith said he would “definitely” tell him, and when Yousaf added: “Expect some more requests for layman explanations,” the adviser replied: “Easy. It’s my only skill.”
He then adds: “And I barely understand Gregor either but the boffins like him.”
The comment comes after messages showed Nicola Sturgeon referring to Boris Johnson as a f****** clown” when he announced another national lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson announced another national lockdown on October 31, 2020, during a televised address.
Sturgeon said the address was “f****** excruciating” and that the UK communications were “awful”.
The UK Covid-19 Inquiry has already heard from both Yousaf and Leitch as it takes evidence during a series of sessions in Edinburgh.
These will continue next week, with Jeane Freeman, who preceded Yousaf as health secretary, and former first minister Nicola Sturgeon both due to answer questions.
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