Bereaved families who lost loved one’s during he pandemic have labelled the Scottish Government’s failure to hand over WhatsApp messaged to the UK Covid Inquiry as “shameful”.

First Minister Humza Yousaf yesterday revealed a Scottish Government policy to “routinely delete WhatsApp messages” amid a row emerging over evidence expected to be made available to a key inquiry.

Mr Yousaf denied media reports that he has deleted WhatsApp messages wanted by the UK Covid Inquiry and insisted he intends to hand over the evidence.

Last night, the Scottish Government said that its “guidance on mobile messaging requires that information should be saved to our system of record”.

Read more: Humza Yousaf reveals policy to 'routinely delete' WhatsApp messages

A government spokesperson added that “staff should regularly review, record information as required and then delete conversations within one month”, suggested that this is “to promote the proper capture of information, but also to reduce the risk of loss of data”.

According to a submission to the inquiry from counsel to the inquiry Jamie Dawson KC last week, “no messages” from within the Scottish Government had been provided.

The statement sparked press reports that former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, as well as National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch and Chief Medical Officer Dr Sir Gregor Smith had deleted their messages.

A spokeswoman for the former first minister said Ms Sturgeon said she would fully co-operate with the inquiries and she had just submitted her third written statement, which ran to about 200 pages.

Read more: Reports suggest Sturgeon and Yousaf deleted WhatsApp Covid messages

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday, the Scottish Covid Bereaved Group’s Margaret Waterton, who lost her mother and husband to the illness, hit out at the Scottish Government.

Ms Waterton said: “The situation this week with Scottish Government not having brought forward the information that it was requested to provide to the inquiry some considerable time ago, I think, frankly, is shameful.”

She added that her group maintains its faith in both the Scottish and UK-wide inquiries.

Asked what should happen to ministers, former ministers and officials who refuse to hand over information, Ms Waterton said: “That’s a matter for the inquiry in terms of what the outcome should be.

Read more: 'Disappearing' WhatsApp messages used by Boris advisor

“They need to look to their conscience – morally, ethically, I would not like to have myself in that kind of position and that’s a matter for them and for the inquiry.”

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison, who is leading the response to the inquiries for the Scottish Government, is expected to deliver a statement to the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Waterton said she hopes the statement will include an assurance to provide “whatever information they have” on the pandemic.

The First Minister requested that the inquiry issue a notice under Section 21 of the Inquiry Act to compel the Scottish Government to hand over the messages, which he says will ensure ministers comply with the law regarding data protection, although it is not clear why the Government would not be able to comply with GDPR regulations without the notice.