Humza Yousaf has been accused of covering-up a misleading statement to parliament by having officials retrospectively produce statistics to justify what he said. 

He has been urged to refer himself to the independent adviser on the ministerial code on the matter.

The First Minister wrongly told FMQs in June that Scotland has the majority of the UK’s renewables and natural resources, when in fact it has around a quarter of capacity.

When challenged by Tory MSP Liam Kerr about his claim, Mr Yousaf replied two months later in a letter saying he had “intended to say ‘per capita’” resources.

However heavily redacted material released under freedom of information suggests Mr Yousaf couldn’t have known the per capita figure at the time, as his officials hadn’t produced one.

The calculation was not made until July, when civil servants were trying to find a formula that would retrospectively justify Mr Yousaf’s original statement. 

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Mr Yousaf also made the claim that he intended to say ‘per capita’ in a letter to Holyrood’s Presiding Officer. 

Mr Kerr said the FM and his advisers had been “caught red-handed” in a cover-up.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has now written to Mr Yousaf urging him to refer himself for a ministerial code investigation, saying a "reverse engineered" excuse may have further misled parliament.

The row dates back to the FMQs of June 22, when Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said a Labour government would headquarter a new GB Energy company in Scotland.

Mr Yousaf replied: “Of course a GB energy company would be based in Scotland, because we have the majority of the renewables and natural resources here.”

At the end of FMQs, Mr Kerr challenged this, saying that Scotland had 21% of the UK’s installed renewables capacity and generated 26% of renewable electricity in 2022.

Internal Scottish Government correspondence released to the pro-Union These Islands group shows that officials asked someone to “dig out” the relevant figures within 30 minutes.

Later that afternoon, the reply came back that Scotland had 26% of UK renewable capacity and 26% of generation in 2022, not the majority Mr Yousaf had claimed.

The next day, officials added in future renewable projects under construction and in planning, raising the Scotland figure to 36%.

It was not until July 3 that an official circulated a table including per capita figures, which gave Scotland 651.6GWh per 100,000 people, by far the highest for any part of the UK.

1/ @HumzaYousaf recently wrote to @LiamKerrMSP about a correction he’d made to the Official Report, after falsely claiming that Scotland has the majority of the UK’s renewables capacity.

Here is what he said at FMQs on 22nd June 2023.

Mr Yousaf then wrote to Mr Kerr on August 29 offering this after-the-fact explanation.

He said: “To be clear, in a UK context, we do have the majority of renewables per capita and natural resources, here in Scotland.

"I had intended to say ‘per capita’ and I hope that clarifies the matter you raised at FMQs on 22nd June 2023.

“I am copying this letter to Mr Sarwar and have sent a separate letter to the Presiding Officer, Minister for Parliamentary Business and Business Managers”.

Officials also asked the parliament to correct the Official Report to include the per capita reference, but did not offer any explanation for it.

In a lengthy thread on Twitter/X, Sam Taylor of These Islands published the FoI material and said officials were “only interested in finding creative ways for him [the FM] to save face”.

He said the ‘per capita’ calculation should also have been discounted as a “non-starter” because it is “mathematically meaningless”.

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He wrote: “Scot Gov civil servants knew almost immediately what the correct figures were.

“But then spent weeks concocting a plan with the sole purpose of allowing the First Minister to save face. This is not good.”

He told the Herald: "This is not the first time we’ve seen evidence of the Scottish Government misrepresenting statistics.

"But potentially much more serious is the First Minister misleading MSPs and the Presiding Officer.

"Humza Yousaf has serious questions to answer about why his letter did not tell the truth."

Mr Kerr said: “Humza Yousaf and his advisers have been caught red-handed.

“Not only did the First Minister make false claims in the Holyrood chamber, his army of advisers then spent weeks doubling down and trying to concoct excuses rather than owning up to his errors.

“That is typical of the cover-up culture at the heart of this SNP-Green government. 

“If Humza Yousaf wants to be a Nicola Sturgeon tribute act, then this sort of behaviour is the perfect way to go about it.

“Vital time and resources have been wasted trying to spare the blushes of Humza Yousaf.

"That is a dereliction of duty at a time when people are struggling with the global cost-of-living crisis and NHS waiting times are continuing to spiral.

“Humza Yousaf has serious questions to answer over his – and his officials’ – behaviour on this affair. It is another example of the SNP’s secret Scotland.”

In his letter to Mr Yousaf, Mr Cole-Hamilton said it appeared to be "impossible" for him to have intended to say per capita in parliament, as the calculation was only made afterwards.

Referring to the FM's letter to the Presiding Officer and other MSPs speaking of this intention, he said he was concerned that "you knew it was not true to tell Parliament that, in your words, 'I had intended to say 'per capita' at FMQs on 22 June, if indeed this apparent fact was only reverse engineered afterwards in the course of your Scottish Government deliberating how it could correct the record and save embarrassment".

He reminded Mr Yousaf that Section 1.3(c) of the Scottish Ministerial Code states that it is "of paramount importance" that accurate and truthful information is given to the Parliament and explains that ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation." 

Mr Yousaf was yesterday named by Time magazine as one of its 100 emerging international leaders for 2023.

When Mr Kerr also raised the matter at FMQs today, warning the civil service may be getting politicised.

Mr Yousaf said it was incredible that Mr Kerr was lecturing him about respecting Parliament from the party of Boris Johnson.

Mr Kerr said it had been “a quite disgraceful display of deflection and insults, rather than admit he has been rumbled twice".

"This kind of behaviour is unworthy of his office. He should now refer himself to the independent advisor on the ministerial code for misleading parliament.”

Mr Yousaf's official spokesman later said he would respond to Mr Cole-Hamilton's letter "in due course".

He also insisted Mr Yousaf had the per capita figure in mind when he spoke at FMQs in June, even though it hadn't yet been calculated within government.

A parliament spokesperson said: “All Members, including the First Minister, are responsible for the content of their contributions during Parliamentary proceedings.

“The Parliament’s Members’ corrections guidance sets out the process around correcting information during proceedings which includes writing a letter to the Presiding Officer.”