Nicola Sturgeon says inquiry ‘does have’ Covid messages after WhatsApp texts erased

Former leader Nicola Sturgeon has refused to say whether she deleted WhatsApp messages (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Former leader Nicola Sturgeon has refused to say whether she deleted WhatsApp messages (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Nicola Sturgeon has revealed the UK Covid Inquiry “does have messages” between her and those she was in touch with during the pandemic.

The former first minister of Scotland has said she will “answer questions directly and openly” when she gives evidence to the inquiry at the end of January.

It comes after the inquiry heard on Friday that all of Ms Sturgeon’s WhatsApp messages sent and received during the pandemic have been deleted.

She previously said she never used informal messages to make decisions throughout the pandemic, but was criticised by a number of political opponents who say she is attempting to hide exchanges with key ministers and advisers.

During the pandemic, it had been widely reported in the media that the messages were deleted.

Jamie Dawson KC, counsel to the inquiry, said on Friday that a table submitted by the Scottish Government confirmed that was the case.

Ms Sturgeon wrote on social media on Saturday: “I do not intend to give a running commentary on the ongoing Inquiry.

“Instead, out of respect to all those impacted by the pandemic, I will answer questions directly and openly when I give evidence at the end of this month.

“However, in light of recent coverage, there are certain points I feel it important to make clear.

“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.”

Ms Sturgeon went on to say that while she did her best to lead Scotland through the pandemic, she admitted she “did not get every decision right – far from it”, but said she was “motivated only, and at all times, by the determination to keep people as safe as possible”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The Scottish Government is committed to responding to both the UK and Scottish Covid-19 inquiries, as learning lessons from the pandemic is vital to prepare for the future.

"It would be inappropriate to comment on any matters being considered by the UK Covid Inquiry while hearings are ongoing."