Humza Yousaf’s office has denied a cover-up after he was urged to refer himself for an investigation under the ministerial code for allegedly misleading parliament.

The First Minister was criticised after emails suggested his officials had retrospectively produced statistics in a bid to justify a false claim he made to MSPs.

Mr Yousaf wrongly told FMQs in June that Scotland had 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 the accuracy of his statement, Mr Yousaf replied two months later in a letter saying he had “intended to say ‘per capita’”.

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However 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 back up Mr Yousaf’s original statement. 

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

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 written to Mr Yousaf urging him to refer himself for a ministerial code investigation, saying a "reverse engineered" excuse may have further misled parliament.

At FMQs on June 22, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said a UK Labour government would  base 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 Government emails released to the pro-Union These Islands group showed Mr Yousaf’s officials had confirmed within hours that Scotland had 26% of UK renewable capacity and generation in 2022, not the majority Mr Yousaf claimed.

Officials then tried to recalculate the figure by adding projects under construction and in planning, but the renewables figure only rose 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.

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On August 29, Mr Yousaf wrote to Mr Kerr saying that was what he had meant all along.

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.”

Mr Kerr said it was clear Mr Yousaf’s advisers had spent weeks “trying to concoct excuses rather than owning up to his errors”.

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

“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 a letter to Mr Yousaf, Mr Cole-Hamilton urged him to refer himself to the outside adviser on the Scottish Ministerial Code, which says ministers must be truthful or resign.

He said it seemed “impossible” for Mr Yousaf to have intended to say per capita, given the calculation was only made afterwards.

After Mr Kerr tried to raise the issue at FMQs, Mr Yousaf said he wouldn’t take lectures from the party of Boris Johnson, which Mr Kerr called a “disgraceful display of deflection”.

After FMQs, the First Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Yousaf 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.

He said: “The fact that we corrected the record speaks for itself and the fact that we disclosed under FoI the discussions that took place in terms of civil servants surely also speaks for transparency.

“I saw a quote from somebody, it was the accusation of a cover-up, well we published the discussion and the only reason, as often is the case when we get stories put to us, the only reason people know about these things is because something was disclosed on the FoI.

“I’m saying we can’t be accused of covering things up and also disclosing things.”