Nicola Sturgeon told an adviser to "not worry about" protocol during the pandemic and shared a personal email address rather than her official government contact. 

Details of the informal exchanges between the former first minister and Devi Sridhar, Professor and chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, were revealed on Tuesday at the UK Covid inquiry. 

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Opposition MSPs accused the ex-SNP leader of trying to evade scrutiny at the height of the pandemic. 

While her government email address would have been covered by FOI laws, her party email would almost certainly not be. 

Prof Sridhar said she was not a member of any WhatsApp groups but had communicated with Ms Sturgeon on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, through direct messages.

The academic had sent the politician her mobile phone number and said she was available if she wanted to discuss anything. 

She added: “I’m here to help and support you as much as you can – would rather be supportive of the Scottish Government than standing outside throwing stones.”

The inquiry heard that they discussed the situation in the rest of the UK and spoke about contact tracing, social distancing and about the media.

At one point, Prof Sridhar said she was concerned about breaking protocol but Ms Sturgeon told her tackling Covid-19 was more important.

The Herald:

In June 2020, Prof Sridhar told the former first minister she had drafted a note for the chief medical officer on key steps to managing outbreak in Scotland.

She said: “I’m happy to share a draft with you as well but don’t want to overstep or break protocol.”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “That would be very helpful, (Don’t worry about protocol – tackling the virus more important than that and I’ll handle any issues on that front).”

Ms Sturgeon said Prof Sridhar could send the correspondence “privately” and provided an SNP email address for this purpose.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said this was "another astonishing revelation about Nicola Sturgeon’s shameful attempts to evade scrutiny."

He added: "On top of deleting all of her WhatsApp messages, the then-First Minister was content to carry out sensitive government business via her personal party email, in spite of the reservations of her advisor.

“This matters because she knew fine well that personal email exchanges can’t be obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

“It was calculated, secretive and unacceptable from a politician whose reputation is now shot to pieces.

“And it begs two questions. Firstly, what was Nicola Sturgeon trying to hide? Secondly, given her previous reluctance to deny doing so, how often did she use private emails to conduct government business?”

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During her evidence, Prof Sridhar said her role on the Scottish Government's advisory group had come at a “major cost” and she had been subjected to “public abuse, death threats and online conspiracy theories”.

“I won’t go into too much depth but I received death threats, I received racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia.

“I’ve taken it because I think the bigger idea is that we try to help each other and do good and be true to that.”

She said she “didn’t know” if she would put herself forward again.

She added: “This is not Britain specific – Netherlands, Germany it’s the same. The United States is even worse – they’re worried about being shot, at least here you’re only worried about being stabbed.

“It’s not UK specific.”