Perthshire MPs rally round Nicola Sturgeon as fury grows over deleted Covid Whatsapps

Perthshire MPs have joined SNP insiders in rallying round Nicola Sturgeon as she addressed growing anger over whether she deleted her Covid-era Whatsapp messages.

Ms Sturgeon issued a statement on Saturday as she found herself at the centre of a growing storm after the UK Covid-19 inquiry was told she had kept “no messages whatsoever”.

The probe was also shown evidence that Jason Leitch, the high-profile national clinical director, told colleagues that deleting his messages on Whatsapp was a “pre-bed” ritual.

Former deputy first minister had his messages set to auto-delete, the inquiry heard.

The inquiry was told John Swinney set his messages to auto delete. Image: PA

Responding to increasing anger over the issue, Nicola Sturgeon posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, to insist the inquiry did have some informal messages between her and her aides.

She said: “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.

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

Following the statement, many in the SNP rallied round their former leader, hailing her leadership during the crisis.

Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart said: “[Nicola Sturgeon] led Scotland through one of its most difficult moments with clarity, compassion and candour.

“Really unfortunate she has had to make this statement to counter all of these awful smears.”

Perthshire MP praises Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘calm’ response

Ochil and South Perthshire MP John Nicolson praised the former party leader’s response as “characteristically calm”.

But support for Ms Sturgeon has not been universal. Lawyer Aamer Anwar, who is representing families who lost loved ones to Covid, said Ms Sturgeon must “stop playing games”.

Families of people who died have reportedly instructed lawyers to prepare a criminal complaint over the potential destruction of messages.

“If Ms Sturgeon is saying she has no messages in the period of the pandemic between 2020 to 2021, that cannot be the end of the matter.

“The fact deletion took place on an industrial scale is a ­devastating betrayal of the many promises made by the Scottish Government for full transparency and disclosure to the Scottish Covid Bereaved.

“The fundamental questions remain as to why were they were deleted, and when.”

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