Scotland’s beleaguered National Clinical Director accused a Conservative MSP of being “rude” and "harrumphing like a child" and described a Labour MSP as a "smartarse” following a Holyrood briefing during the pandemic.

Jason Leitch made the criticisms of the politicians in private WhatsApp messages with Humza Yousaf. They were published by the UK Covid Inquiry on Friday morning. 

Mr Yousaf, who was health secretary at the time, said he was not surprised, by the civil servant’s description of his political rivals. 

The comments will almost certainly add to the pressure on the clinician. Labour has already called for him to be sacked.

READ MORE: Labour calls for Jason Leitch to be sacked as Clinical Director

In his message, Professor Leitch said: "Just done MSP briefing. They were mostly fine. Very reasonable and predictable. Edward Mountain rude and Daniel Johnson a smartarse. Otherwise fine.”

When Mr Yousaf asked for more details, Prof Leitch replied: “My Mum taught me never to be rude. Mountain was head shaking and a child.”

The First Minister said Paul Sweeney, another Labour MSP, “will also be one to watch, he will tell you how to do your job”.

Prof Leitch then claimed that Labour leader Anas Sarwar had told him that he was "struggling" with Mr Sweeney and with "new girl Mercedes" [Villalba, a Labour MSP].

The Herald:

Mr Mountain told The Herald: “My job wasn’t to be subservient to the Scottish Government – it was to represent the views and concerns of my constituents.

“Ministers and officials should have spent less time worrying about their sensitivities and more time working to tackle the virus.

“These petulant interchanges reflect very poorly on Jason Leitch and the First Minister.”

Taking to Twitter Mr Johnson said he had only asked Prof Leitch why the Scottish Government was allowing fan zones to go ahead for the football, but was prohibiting nursery graduations.

"If that makes you a smart arse so be it!," he added.


In the messages, Mr Yousaf, who became health secretary in May 2021 after the Holyrood election, also tells Prof Leitch he is “winging it” in the post.

Mr Yousaf remarked that the pandemic meant “everyone is of course a public health expert”, with Prof Leitch telling him: “You actually are. Three weeks training!”

The minister responds: “I am winging it! And will get found out sooner rather than later.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Tories have urged Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone to reconvene Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee.

The call comes after messages shared with the inquiry showed Liz Lloyd, who served as Nicola Sturgeon’s chief of staff, calling for a public spat with Westminster at the height of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Liz Lloyd: Sturgeon aide denies 'cover up' of Covid cases

The special adviser said she wanted a “good old fashioned rammy” with the UK government about funding for the furlough scheme.

Ms Sturgeon then replied: “Yeah, I get it.”

When asked about the comment at the inquiry on Thursday, Ms LLoyd defended the move, saying it was a tactic to get the UK Government to change course.

“I was looking for a spat with a purpose,” she said. “It had been shown in the past that they would sometimes change their mind if they felt that pressure and I wanted them to change their mind.”

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser said the Scottish Government had tried to politicise the pandemic.

He said: “The last week has exposed as a cynical charade the notion that Nicola Sturgeon’s government was motivated by the best interests of the Scottish people.

“Liz Lloyd’s words and the minutes of the June 2020 cabinet meeting reveal the toxic truth.

“We now know that this was a government intent on exploiting the pandemic to foster division with the UK Government, and then prevent their debased motives being exposed through the industrial-scale deletion of messages.

“Because of their concerted effort to thwart the inquiry, the shifty clique who betrayed bereaved families should be held to account by MSPs on the Covid Committee.

“The shameful cover-up and politicisation of a deadly pandemic must be interrogated at Holyrood.”