Jason Leitch has been accused of more hypocrisy after it emerged he said face masks were “a small price to pay for progress” around the time he was privately advising Humza Yousaf on how to avoid one.

The national clinical director stressed the importance of face coverings to prevent the spread of Covid when he met faith groups anxious about their congregations in late 2021.

However within weeks he gave Mr Yousaf, then the health secretary, tips on how he could appear at a formal dinner without a mask. 

In WhatsApp messages published by the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, Prof Leitch said “literally no one” kept to the official guidance, but denied giving Mr Yousaf a “workaround” on the rules.

READ MORE: Leitch denies giving Yousaf a ‘work around’ to avoid Covid mask rules 

It also emerged that Mr Leitch had criticised opposition MSPs behind their backs to Mr Yousaf, calling Tory Edward Mountain “rude” and Labour’s Daniel Johnson a “smart a**e”.

Labour leader Anas Sarwar called it “extremely unprofessional” and the Scottish Tories called for Mr Leitch to be sacked.

Now the Herald can reveal Mr Leitch faces more questions over his professionalism.

On 20 October 2021, he addressed the “Faith and Belief Representatives” group which worked with the Scottish Government during the Covid crisis. 

The subject was “the current state of the pandemic and rationale for the continued use of face coverings”, which had a direct bearing on church congregations.

The minutes of the meeting state: “Jason reiterated that there was a balancing act between being optimistic and following the rules, and that face coverings were helping with continued progress against the virus.

“Jason stated that this was a judgement matter looking at a variety of issues, and that wearing of face coverings was a small price to pay for continued progress.”

The Herald:

However on 19 November 2021, Mr Leitch took a very different tone with Mr Yousaf.

Referring to a dinner he was due to attend, Mr Yousaf asked: “If I’m standing talking to folk [do I] need my mask on?”

Mr Leitch replied: “Officially yes. But literally no one does. Have a drink in your hands at ALL times. Then you’re exempt. So if someone comes over and you stand, lift your drink.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Humanist Society, which took part in the 2021 meetings, said: "It's disappointing to read that the National Clinical Director was giving advice to ministers on one hand how to avoid wearing a mask, while in stakeholder meetings at the same time he was stressing the importance of wearing a mask and everyone doing their bit.

“Public servants have a duty to tell it like it is to ministers not to tell them what they want to hear."

READ MORE: Jason Leitch told people to 'pray healing' on the sick as Covid struck

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: “This is another revelation that undermines Jason Leitch’s credibility as National Clinical Director.

“It was wrong of him to be preaching the importance of facemasks in public at the same time as he was advising Humza Yousaf on ways of getting around the rules on wearing them.

“And we know, of course, that he was determined to hide this hypocrisy, and other crucial evidence, by deleting WhatsApp messages as a ‘pre-bed ritual’.

“Mr Leitch must do the decent thing and resign. It’s clear from the ever-growing evidence that has come to light during the Covid inquiry that he’s not fit for the role.”

The Herald:

A Scottish Government spokesperson 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.”