Humza Yousaf is being urged to launch an investigation into why key meetings of SNP ministers about how to respond to the Covid pandemic were not minuted.

It emerged at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry recently that there is no official record of “Gold Command” meetings involving then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues.

The high-level discussions between the FM, her deputy John Swinney, other cabinet secretaries and senior policy advisers typically discussed the pandemic response a day or two before the weekly Scottish Cabinet on a Tuesday.

Although the cabinet was formally minuted by officials, the secret Gold Command meetings which shaped its decisions were not.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats said it appeared a clear breach of the Scottish ministerial code and urged Mr Yousaf to ask his independent ethics adviser to investigate.

Giving evidence to the Inquiry on Thursday, the First Minister confirmed he had attended some Gold Command meetings in his previous roles as justice and health secretary.

He said: “My understanding was that Gold Command meetings should have been minuted.”

He added: “If that was not the case, then that would not have been the usual protocol for government meetings.

“They should be minuted, and of course be available should there be the appropriate request.”

It also emerged that, while no formal minutes were kept, some informal records were made by Ms Sturgeon’s former chief of staff Liz Lloyd.

An extract from her personal notebook published by the inquiry showed notes from a Gold Command meeting in September 2020 that discussed a “circuit breaker” lockdown.

The Scottish Ministerial Code says “any collective ministerial meeting should be minuted”.

It also says ministers must uphold the seven principles of public life (the Nolan Principles), meaning they must “act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner”.  

In her introduction to the 2018 edition of the Scottish Ministerial Code, which was in place during the pandemic, Ms Sturgeon wrote: “I will lead by example in following the letter and spirit of this Code, and I expect that Ministers and civil servants will do likewise.”

Mr Yousaf echoed the sentiment in his introduction to the 2023 edition, writing: “I will lead by example in adhering to this Code and knowing it is an incredible privilege to serve the people of Scotland. I know that Ministers will do likewise.” 

In a letter to Mr Yousaf, LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton urged Mr Yousaf to launch a probe into whether the absence of Gold Command minutes breached the Ministrial Code. 

He wrote: “I am concerned that the absence of any minutes for the meetings that took place between the former First Minister, the Deputy First Minister, other Cabinet secretaries and senior policy advisers constitutes a breach of the Code.   

“The content of these meetings could have included critical discussions and insights that shaped the decisions on which lives and livelihoods depended. 

“They would have been of critical interest to the families fighting for the answers and the understanding they deserve, but which they may now have been denied.”   

“To that end, I urge you to contact the Independent Adviser on the Scottish Ministerial Code as soon as possible to formally launch an investigation into this matter.” 

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to responding to both the UK and Scottish Covid-19 inquiries, as learning lessons from the pandemic is vital to prepare for the future.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on the detail of evidence being considered by the UK Covid Inquiry while hearings are ongoing.

“Mr Cole-Hamilton’s letter will be responded to in due course.”