Labour has accused the First Minister of misleading parliament as the row over the Scottish Government’s failure to hand over messages to the UK’s Covid inquiry deepens.

The claim that Humza Yousaf may have broken the ministerial code follows the news that Scotland’s national clinical director, Jason Leitch routinely deletes his WhatsApp communications.

The Times reports that the dentist — who played a significant role in the Scottish Government's response to the virus — wipes his communications every day.

That means none were left by the time a "do not destroy" notice was issued by the UK's Covid inquiry, which is looking at decision-making in Whitehall and the devolved administrations between January 2020 and April 2022.

READ MORE: Covid Secrecy row as Jason Leitch deletes WhatsApp messages

However, at the end of June, when Anas Sarwar asked the SNP leader to confirm that “all ministers and officials, past and present, have complied with the do not destroy instruction,” Mr Yousaf said they had.

When Mr Sarwar also asked the First Minister to “give a guarantee that all requested emails, texts and WhatsApp messages will be handed over in full to the inquiry," Mr Yousaf did so.

He said: “To ensure that there is simply no doubt whatsoever, any material that is asked for—WhatsApp messages, emails, Signal messages, Telegram messages or whatever—will absolutely be handed over to the Covid inquiries and handed over to them in full.”

The Herald: Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar

In a letter to the First Minister, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, Dame Jackie Baillie suggested that may not have been correct.  

“It is always essential that politicians uphold the highest standards of honesty and accuracy in the Scottish Parliament – and that is even more important on a matter as serious as the Covid inquiry. Bereaved families deserve answers about what happened during the pandemic and your government owes them total transparency.”

Dame Jackie said the new revelations about Prof Leitch “strongly suggests” the statements made by the First Minister “were not accurate” and that he “may therefore have misled Parliament.”

“At the least there must be an investigation into whether this constitutes a breach of the Ministerial Code,” she added.

READ MORE: Scottish Government fail to hand over any messages to UK Covid inquiry

Last night, the UK Covid-19 Inquiry’s legal team said they believe the “majority” of WhatsApp messages shared among Scottish Government officials during the pandemic “have not been retained”.

A note by Jamie Dawson KC – the lead counsel in the Scotland module of the inquiry – said: “Given the potential significance of any such material, and in order to provide a clearer statement of the position, the Scottish Government has been asked to provide a full update on its position and that of all relevant Scottish Government witnesses as regards to their use of WhatsApps and their current availability for disclosure.

“It is currently understood that although WhatsApps appear to have been used to send messages relating to and surrounding key decisions by some members of Scottish Government, the majority of the messages have not been retained by witnesses.”

Mr Dawson went on to say there is a “lack of certainty” around what materials are held by the Scottish Government and its officials, where it is held, and what can be recovered, and the inquiry has sought more information about the circumstances in which the messages were not retained.

In her closing remarks at Thursday’s hearing, inquiry chair Lady Hallett said: “It will not surprise anyone to learn that I am very concerned about the difficulties that the Module 2A team have encountered in obtaining the material they need to ensure a thorough and rigorous analysis of key decision-making in Scotland during the worst stages of the pandemic.”

She added that substantive hearings due to take place in January will not be postponed, and she “will not hesitate” to use “statutory powers” at her disposal to obtain the relevant information.

Challenged on the issue during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Mr Yousaf said: “I can only say to the families listening, we will take on board those concerns, we will internally investigate fully, because my understanding, certainly as I stand here today, is that relevant information has been passed over.

“But if there is any concerns raised they will be fully investigated and I will ask the Solicitor General to investigate them, and of course I will update this Parliament on any of those investigations.”

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.