Messages furore is symptomatic of way slippery SNP handled the pandemic, writes ... trends now
Only with the SNP Government would we end up with an inquiry into an inquiry. Yesterday evening, deputy First Minister Shona Robison came before the Scottish parliament to explain why WhatsApp messages relating to the Covid pandemic had been deleted.
I am sorry to say we remain little the wiser. The Scottish Government’s habits of spin and evasion remain in place.
True, Ms Robison announced some 14,000 messages will now be handed over to the Covid inquiry.
This was handed up as evidence of the Government’s commitment to transparency. But, as always with this Government, it’s less than meets the eye.
As Scots Tory leader Douglas Ross responded, the stench of secrecy hanging over this Government remains ‘overpowering’.
Nicola Sturgeon refused to confirm or deny whether she had deleted WhatsApp messages from her phone during the pandemic
It turns out that only those exchanges between ministers and officials which the SNP Government deems relevant to its ‘decision-making’ have made it onto the record. As inquiry KC Jamie Dawson revealed last week, much of the rest has been deleted.
‘Messages from those closest to the decision-making have been destroyed on an industrial scale,’ added Labour’s Jackie Baillie.
We are effectively being asked to take in good faith that the Scottish Government has only deleted irrelevant messages (‘like, do I want a coffee?’, as Ms Robison explained yesterday) and will dutifully make public the rest.
We will have to wait for the inquiry to unfold before seeing whether this is true. Will the Scottish Government’s data dump provide the same kind of insight that we’re seeing into the UK Government?
I am not holding my breath. For, throughout the pandemic, this is a government that put its political priorities before outcomes, transparency and delivery.
The way the Scottish Government has dealt with the inquiry in recent weeks is entirely in keeping with the slippery way it has handled the pandemic throughout.
A caveat first: as we have seen in evidence to the inquiry this week, the UK government at the time did not exactly make for the ideal partner as the pandemic began nearly four years ago.
Boris Johnson’s former head of communications Lee Cain claimed yesterday in evidence that the government lacked both a plan and anyone who could ‘drive the machine’.
We were ‘enmeshed in a fundamentally dysfunctional system’, said Dominic Cummings, the then Prime Minister’s former adviser. Meanwhile, further evidence released to the inquiry yesterday showed how Mr Cummings refused to be candid about the pandemic in meetings which involved the devolved administrations.
This was an administration that could barely hold a conversation with itself, never mind those in Edinburgh and Cardiff that were looking for a lead when the pandemic struck in March 2020.
But fault was on both sides. Not long after the first lockdown was imposed on the country, UK officials began to complain that they couldn’t trust Nicola Sturgeon