The Scottish Government has shared 14,000 unredacted WhatsApp messages with the UK Covid Inquiry after being criticised for a lack of transparency.

Ministers confirmed they had met a commitment given to the Scottish Parliament last week to deliver the material to Lady Hallett’s inquiry by the end of today.

“All material that the Scottish Government holds has now been submitted to the Inquiry,” a spokesperson said, adding there would be no future “running commentary” on the matter.

The messages, which cover 137 Covid-related chat groups, are in addition to 19,000 other documents which the Government had already shared with the probe.

They remain confidential unless aired by the Inquiry as evidence.

The move adds to the pressure on former first minister Nicola Sturgeon to say whether she destroyed potential evidence to the Inquiry by deleting her own WhatsApp messages.

First Minister Humza Yousaf and former Finance Secretary Kate Forbes have both confirmed they retained their WhatsApp messages from the pandemic and would hand them over.

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However Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly refused to say whether she destroyed her messages, despite being the key decision maker north of the border at the time.

National clinical director Professor Jason Leith and chief medical officer Dr Sir Gregor Smith have also failed to deny press reports that they also deleted their WhatsApps. 

Last month, counsel to the UK Inquiry Jamie Dawson KC said “no messages” from the Scottish Government’s Covid-related WhatsApp groups had yet been provided.

Deputy First Minister Shona Robision, who is in charge of the Scottish Government’s response to the UK and Scottish Covid inquiries, updated Holyrood on the issue last week.

She told MSPs that the Scottish Government had asked for and received a Section 21 order from the Inquiry to avoid contravening data protection laws by releasing WhatsApps.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Deputy First Minister made a statement to Parliament on 31 October where she confirmed that the Scottish Government had received the Section 21 notice and that work was well underway to fully comply in accordance with the timetable set by the UK Inquiry. 

“All material that the Scottish Government holds has now been submitted to the Inquiry.

“She also highlighted that the Scottish Government does not intend to provide a running commentary on the work of either inquiry in order to ensure the Inquiries can take forward their necessary work without undue speculation.”

Although the Scottish Government has emphasised the volume of WhatsApp messages, 14,000 is equivalent to barely one message per week for each chat group over two years.

Besides the arithmetic suggesting an incomplete picture, the material only covers “corporate” groups, which are defined as three or more people at least one of whom is a civil servant.

It does not include group chats purely between ministers, nor one-to-one conversations. 

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As well as the Government material handed over under the Section 21 order, individual ministers and officials have been asked separately for their evidence under a process known as Rule 9.

It was the Rule 9 request to Ms Sturgeon which led to reports about her being unable to hand over WhatsApps as they had been deleted.

Earlier, SNP Economy Secretary Neil Gray insisted the Government was not “holding back” in its response to the Covid inquiries.

That prompted Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to say it was "astonishing" forthe SNP to boast about transparency given Ms Sturgeon's reluctance to come clean about her messages.

He said: "For all of the minister’s boasts about handing over thousands of messages, crucial ones may never see the light of day.

“Claims that the SNP are being transparent simply won’t wash with the public, especially when the Scottish Government’s lead responder to the pandemic, Ms Sturgeon, is still hiding behind process."