Yousaf announces externally-led review into use of mobile messaging apps

The First Minister will appear for questioning as the UK Covid Inquiry continues in Edinburgh.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has announced that there will be an externally-led review into the use of mobile messaging apps and non-corporate technology in the Scottish Government.

It comes amid ongoing scrutiny at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry over messages exchanged by ministers and officials during the pandemic.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Yousaf said: “I do believe that there are challenges in relation to our use of WhatsApp, it has not been frankly the Government’s finest hour in relation to handling those requests and I put my hands up to that, unlike of course other governments.

“That’s why I have commissioned officials to deliver an externally-led review, not a Government review but an externally-led review, into the use of mobile messaging apps and the use of non-corporate technology in the Scottish Government, and that should take particular account of our interaction with statutory public inquiries.

“When it comes to being transparent, the Government handed over 28,000 messages, 19,000 documents, I myself as First Minister of the government have handed over my WhatsApp messages.”

Yousaf will appear before the UK Covid Inquiry on Thursday afternoon.

The First Minister also faced questions about an exchange in which he asked Scotland’s national clinical director for advice on mask rules at a social event.

Professor Jason Leitch told Yousaf, who was then health secretary, to “have a drink in your hands at all times” to avoid wearing a face covering.

Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, Dame Jackie Baillie, said Prof Leitch appeared to have advised Yousaf “how to avoid the rules”.

She said: “It is clear that Jason Leitch wiped his messages completely and seem to find the period during the pandemic all quite funny, judging from the messages we have seen.”

Baillie continued: “If the Scottish Government agrees that Jason Leitch’s behaviour was inappropriate, is it not time that he was sacked?”

Prof Leitch, on Tuesday, told the inquiry that he deleted WhatsApp messages in line with the Scottish Government’s policy on the use and retention of informal messaging.

On Thursday morning, the Inquiry heard that Nicola Sturgeon called Boris Johnson “a f******  clown” when he announced another national lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

The comment was made by the then-first minister in a WhatsApp exchange with her chief of staff Liz Lloyd.

Sturgeon said the address was “f****** excruciating” and that the UK communications were “awful”.

The Inquiry continues.

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