Nicola Sturgeon’s Whatsapp messages from throughout the pandemic all appear to have been deleted, the Covid Inquiry has been told.
Counsel to the inquiry Jamie Dawson KC said Ms Sturgeon appeared to have retained “no messages whatsoever”.
Perthshire MSP John Swinney – who served as Deputy First Minister – also had his messages set to auto-delete, the inquiry was informed.
Nicola Sturgeon previously insisted she had “nothing to hide” but had did not clarify if any of her messages had been deleted.
‘Bed time ritual’
It comes as a message from National Clinical Director Jason Leitch was revealed where he said deleting his Whatsapp messages had become a “bed time ritual”.
The Scottish Government previously insisted that reports that Mr Leitch deleted every Whatsapp message every day were “not correct”.
The UK Covid inquiry, which is sitting in Scotland, was taking evidence from Lesley Fraser, the government’s director general corporate.
Asked by Mr Dawson about a table which detailed how ministers retained notebooks, messages and other communications.
He said: “Under the box ‘Nicola Sturgeon’, it says that messages were not retained, they were deleted in routine tidying up of inboxes or changes of phones, unable to retrieve messages.
Deleted Covid Whatsapp messages may have been ‘banter’
“What that tends to suggest is at the time that request was made Nicola Sturgeon, the former first minister of Scotland, had retained no messages whatsoever in connection with her management of the pandemic.”
Ms Fraser agreed with his summary, but said some messages may have been deleted because they were “just banter”.
She also said some ministers may have lost messages when phones were upgraded, or that they may have been deleted to stop Whatsapp becoming “unmanageable”.
A spokesman for the former first minister said she was committed to full transparency.
He said: “Any messages [Nicola Sturgeon] had, she handled and dealt with in line with the Scottish Government’s policies. Nicola has provided a number of written statements to the UK inquiry – totalling hundreds of pages – and welcomes the opportunity to give oral evidence to the inquiry again this month when she will answer all questions put to her.”
‘Even Richard Nixon didn’t destroy Watergate tapes’
“This is rotten to the core. Everyone knew from the start that there would be a public inquiry, so to delete messages on an industrial scale is shameful.
“Nicola Sturgeon made an unambiguous commitment on national television to retain all records and hand them over to judges.
“Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney have chosen to undermine the work of the inquiries and by assuring parliament that they would hand over all material, they have in fact misled it.
“Even Richard Nixon didn’t destroy the Watergate tapes.”