Humza Yousaf has said his WhatsApp messages have not been deleted and will be provided to the UK Covid Inquiry.
It comes after a report said messages sent by former first minister Nicola Sturgeon about the pandemic were manually deleted from her phone.
Sturgeon and Yousaf were among 70 senior Scottish Government figures whose WhatsApp data was not retained in documents reportedly given to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, The Sunday Mail reported.
It comes after the UK inquiry’s legal team said it believes the “majority” of WhatsApp messages shared among Scottish Government officials during the pandemic “have not been retained”.
As part of the inquiry, key decision makers – including ministers, former ministers and senior civil servants – have been asked to disclose communications, including those through informal channels such as Meta-owned WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams or Signal.
Yousaf ordered an investigation by Scotland’s Solicitor General after Jamie Dawson KC – the lead counsel in the Scotland module of the inquiry – told the hearing on Thursday that the Scottish Government has not yet handed over messages.
On Monday, the First Minister told STV News that his WhatsApp messages had not been deleted.
“I have retained all of my WhatsApp messages throughout the course of the pandemic,” he said.
“I am more than happy to hand over those WhatsApp messages as the inquiry wishes to see them.
“So, I don’t know where those press reports have come from.
“I’ve certainly kept my WhatsApp messages and haven’t been deleting them.”
Yousaf said he could not speak for former Government ministers but that his expectation was that the official social media messaging policy would be followed and the “do not destroy” order was obeyed once it was announced by the Covid Inquiry.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross submitted a Topical Question to the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer demanding the First Minister explain the Scottish Government’s policy on mobile phone message retention.
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