John Ferry John Ferry

The Covid inquiry has damaged Sturgeon’s legacy beyond repair

Nicola Sturgeon (Credit: Getty images)

If you thought senior Conservatives giving evidence to the UK Covid inquiry in London was rough then you should watch the footage now emerging from Edinburgh, where the Inquiry’s lawyers have moved to take evidence. It’s a bloodbath. Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon and current first minister Humza Yousaf are yet to even take the stand. But already the sessions have revealed a Scottish SNP government embroiled in secrecy, cover-up and the politicisation of a deadly pandemic in the interests of furthering the cause of independence.

The latest revelations are startling. On Friday morning, the inquiry established that Sturgeon and other senior Scottish government officials had deliberately deleted WhatsApp messages the inquiry wanted as evidence. Later in the day, the inquiry questioned Ken Thomson, a retired senior civil servant and the former manager of the Covid coordination directorate of the Scottish government. He was asked about posts he made in a ‘Covid outbreak group’ WhatsApp chat in August 2020. As well as Thomson, the group also included Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch and the then deputy chief medical officer Nicola Steedman.

Who knows what else will emerge, despite attempts to keep the truth from bereaved families

The conversation went as follows:

Thomson: ‘Just to remind you (seriously), this is discoverable under FOI [freedom of information]. Know where the “clear chat” button is…’

Steedman: ‘Yes, absolutely…’

Leitch: ‘DG level input there…’

Leitch: ‘Done.’

Thomson: ‘Plausible deniability are my middle names. Now clear it again!’

Thomson denied this was an attempt to defeat requests under FOI laws.

In another WhatsApp group post dated May 13, 2021, he wrote: ‘I feel moved at this point to tell you that this chat is FOI-recoverable.’ His message ends with an emoji with a zipped mouth.

Remarkably, this is the same Ken Thomson who, in August 2021, and along with fellow senior civil servant Lesley Fraser, issued a formal letter to civil service colleagues laying down the law in relation to record retention for both the UK and Scottish Covid inquiries.

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