Sturgeon faces demands to make Holyrood statement over WhatsApp messages

The former first minister said the UK Covid Inquiry does have messages from her relating to her handling of the pandemic.

Sturgeon faces demands to make Holyrood statement over WhatsApp messages UK Covid-19 Inquiry

Nicola Sturgeon is facing demands to deliver a personal statement in Holyrood on whether she deleted all WhatsApp messages relevant to the UK Covid Inquiry.

The former Scottish first minister clarified on Saturday the inquiry does have messages from her relating to the pandemic.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton accused Ms Sturgeon of “deceiving” bereaved families after the inquiry was told on Friday that messages sent and received by the former SNP leader had been erased.

He has now written to Ms Sturgeon to demand she faces scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Sturgeon is due to give evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry at the end of January.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said the former first minister has to clarify whether she “misled bereaved families” and the UK Covid inquiry.

He said in a letter: “It is only right that you address these questions in a personal statement to the Scottish Parliament and face questions from MSPs in public.”

He added: “Lives and livelihoods hinged on decisions that you and your government were taking.

“By erasing the discussions that underpinned such decisions, however, you and others at the top of your government may have denied families the answers, the understanding and the closure that they have sought so desperately to obtain.

“Those grieving families, those failed, may be forever denied the full story behind the calls you made.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton urged Ms Sturgeon to also ensure MSPs are able to put questions to the former first minister following any statement.

But on Saturday, Ms Sturgeon wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that her informal messages had not been retained on her own devices but were later obtained and submitted to the inquiry last year, along with handwritten notes.

She wrote: “Contrary to the impression given in some coverage, the Inquiry does have messages between me and those I most regularly communicated with through informal means.”

She added: “Although these had not been retained on my own device, I was able to obtain copies which I submitted to the Inquiry last year.

“To be clear, I conducted the Covid response through formal processes from my office in St Andrews House, not through WhatsApp or any other informal messaging platform. I was not a member of any WhatsApp groups.

“The number of people I communicated with through informal messaging at all was limited.

“Also, any handwritten notes made by me were passed to my private office to be dealt with and recorded as appropriate. Throughout the entire process, I acted in line with Scottish Government policy.”

In evidence to the inquiry on Friday, Jamie Dawson KC, counsel to the inquiry, said “messages were not retained, they were deleted in routine tidying up of inboxes or changes of phones, unable to retrieve messages” in relation to Ms Sturgeon’s correspondence.

In 2021, during one of the regular Covid-19 briefings she held, Ms Sturgeon gave an assurance that correspondence – including messages – would be handed to any future inquiry.

The SNP has been asked for comment.

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