Scottish Government has not handed over any WhatsApp messages to Covid Inquiry

It comes after indiscreet UK Government messages sent during the pandemic were made public.

The Scottish Government has not handed over any WhatsApp messages to the UK Covid Inquiry.

It comes after indiscreet UK Government communications sent on the app during the pandemic were made public.

The Inquiry heard that key decision makers did use WhatsApp but that very few messages appear to have been retained.

Lawyers raised questions about why messages were deleted.

There remains a “lack of clarity” about WhatsApp usage, what content is held and where and what can be recovered and, if not still held, why not, Jamie Dawson KC said.

Lawyers for the Scottish Government said the messaging platform was not used for major decisions and, if it was, a record would be kept elsewhere.

The Inquiry also requested notebooks and diaries from all Scottish Government witnesses and received just three earlier this month.

Mr Dawson said he found it difficult to believe so few notes were kept when working remotely or not from usual working locations.

However, the Inquiry has since been notified of significantly more notebooks that exist.

He said there was hope and expectation that further use of “powers to compel” would not be necessary, but that the Inquiry would not hesitate to use them.

Dr Claire Mitchell KC, on behalf of the Scottish Covid Bereaved, said she was concerned that politicians were making crucial decisions without any notes to assist in the process.

The Scottish Government’s representative, Geoffrey Mitchell KC, said it had no reason whatsoever to be uncooperative or not respond.

He said WhatsApp was not part of the culture within Government but that there was a clear policy that should messages contain important data then the relevant record had to be transferred to the Electronic Records and Document Management (eRDM) System.

UK civil service chief Simon Case stepped back from his role due to a “private medical matter” at the weekend days after WhatsApp communications were released.

He had been expected to give evidence to the Covid inquiry in the coming weeks, after WhatsApp messages disclosed some of his private thoughts about Boris Johnson’s government during the pandemic.

The head of the civil service said the Government was looking like a “terrible, tragic joke,” while Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie was “the real person in charge”.

Mr Case, who was made Cabinet secretary in September 2020 having been permanent secretary in Number 10 before then, wrote that he was “not sure I can cope” amid apparent frustration at how the pandemic was being handled in Government.

Scotland’s Covid-19 Inquiry is ongoing with the second day hearing that women and children were among the worst affected by the pandemic – and many youngsters saw their childhood “blighted”.

On Wednesday, organisations including Long Covid Kids Scotland and Scottish Women’s Rights Organisations – an umbrella term for a number of bodies – gave opening statements to chairman Lord Brailsford.

Senior officials to those at the top of Government during the coronavirus pandemic will appear before the UK Covid-19 Inquiry next week.

Johnson’s then-chief adviser Dominic Cummings, former principal private secretary Martin Reynolds and ex-Number 10 director of communications Lee Cain are all among witnesses scheduled to give evidence.

Cummings confirmed last week that he had been going through his statement with inquiry lawyers, describing the process as “painful”.

Johnson’s closest aide when the pandemic emerged, he became well-known by the public when the Government was forced to defend him after he drove to County Durham beauty spot Barnard Castle during the first lockdown.

Cummings is set to give evidence on Tuesday morning.

Next week’s hearings will begin with Mr Reynolds on Monday morning, followed by Imran Shafi, who was former private secretary to the PM for public services, and Mr Cain who is scheduled for that afternoon.

Former head of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens and Professor Yvonne Doyle, former medical director of Public Health England, are due to give evidence next Thursday.

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