Kate Forbes and John Swinney will today appear before the UK Covid-19 inquiry as it continues taking evidence in Edinburgh.

The two senior SNP politicians will be questioned on the Scottish Government's handling of the pandemic head of the former first minister's appearance tomorrow.

They will be the latest figures to give evidence to the hearing and follow first minister Humza Yousaf's appearance before it last week.

Michael Gove, the UK's Levelling Up secretary and former Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman were questioned by the inquiry yesterday.

Ms Forbes, who was defeated by Humza Yousaf in last year's SNP leadership, was finance secretary from February 17, 2020 until March last year when she was succeeded by Shona Robison, who also become deputy first minister.

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Mr Swinney was deputy first minister in Nicola Sturgeon's governments from 2014 to 2023.

He took on responsibility for the finance and economy portfolio when Ms Forbes went on maternity leave in July 2022 and was appointed Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery in May 2021 following the Holyrood election that month.

Ms Forbes will give evidence this morning while Mr Swinney will appear separately later this morning and this afternoon.

Counsel for the inquiry are expected to ask about decision making around the national lock downs and restrictions on business and daily and working life.

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They will also seek to find out about intergovernmental working as well as about record-keeping and the use of WhatsApp and other informal channels for official Scottish Government work related to the crisis.

Last year, Ms Forbes, the SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said she had kept all her communications from the pandemic, including Whatsapp messages.

Speaking to journalists in Holyrood last November, the former finance secretary said she had not deleted anything.

The Herald: Former deputy first minister John Swinney will give evidence today to the UK's Covid Inquiry. Photo PA.

That is despite Mr Yousaf claiming days earlier that the Scottish Government's social media policy at the time was to “routinely delete WhatsApp messages.”

Asked if she had kept her messages, Ms Forbes replied: “I have. I have not deleted anything, I've retained all relevant correspondence. And that includes retaining all my WhatsApp messages.”

Pressed if she was surprised to hear Mr Yousaf say the government’s policy was to delete messages, the MSP said: “Well, I suppose my approach has been that where something is relevant to my role as minister, I have retained it.

READ MORE: Covid Inquiry: Scottish Ministers ignored advice not to close schools

"And if I could take a step back, and just quickly say that it's really critical that the Covid inquiries provide answers to all those that were affected during the Covid years. And I think that calls for the greatest possible source of information, correspondence and evidence, and so on.”

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Mr Swinney, who stood down as deputy first minister last year when Ms Sturgeon left office, is expected to be pressed on his deleted Whatsapp messages.

Documents sent to the inquiry from the Scottish Government have indicated that former deputy first minister's messages were either deleted manually or by using the app's auto-delete function.

Last week the inquiry was told that all Ms Sturgeon's WhatsApp messages during the pandemic appear to have been deleted.

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Jamie Dawson KC, counsel to the inquiry, said the former first minister appeared to "have retained no messages whatsoever".

However, some of her informal communications were passed by the Scottish Government to the inquiry after it obtained them from other people.

Some of these exchanges were read out at the inquiry last week when Ms Sturgeon's former chief of staff Liz Lloyd gave evidence.

Ms Lloyd told the inquiry she had submitted Whatsapps from September 2020, but had not been able to retrieve messages before then which she said was a matter of regret.

Critics have accused ministers of secrecy over deleted Whatsapps.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said last week that Ms Sturgeon and Mr Swinney had "huge questions" to answer over their conduct.

"By deleting all their WhatsApp messages, they defied the inquiry's clear instructions from June 2021 that all relevant messages had to be retained," he said.

As well as his role as deputy first minister, Mr Swinney was also responsible for education during the early part of the pandemic. (He was education secretary as well as DFM from May 2016 to May 2021.)

Counsel for the inquiry are expected to ask the former DFM about decision making school closures during 2020 and 2021.

He will be pressed particularly on the closures in 2021 after the inquiry was last week told that the Scottish Government ignored its own scientific advice not to close schools during the second Covid wave that year.

Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told the hearing that the decision to shut classrooms across Scotland was “not necessary” and did not contribute to halting the spread of the virus.  

Prof Woolhouse, a former member of the Scottish Covid Advisory Group, said that he and his colleagues had argued to keep schools open, and that he was “baffled” by the decision to close them. 

Schools in Scotland were closed for from the beginning of January to February 2021, on the pretext it would stop Covid from spreading.  

It is also expected that Mr Swinney will be pressed on the government's decision to axe SQA National 5, Highers and Advanced Higher exams in 2020 and 2021 and replace them with teachers' assessments.