Humza Yousaf accused Nicola Sturgeon of "ranting" at him in a cabinet meeting after he made a surprise proposal during the Covid pandemic.

WhatsApp messages released by the UK Covid-19 Inquiry also show National Clinical Director Jason Leitch described Ms Sturgeon’s behaviour as “absolutely ridiculous”.

The incident occurred on 14 December 2021 after Mr Yousaf, the then health secretary,  proposed finding an extra £100million from the health budget for business support.

At the time, Scotland was considering another lockdown.

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At the Covid Inquiry this morning, then Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said it had been news to her and “obviously news to the FM who wasn’t best pleased”.

A WhatsApp message Mrs Forbes sent to Alyson Stafford, director general of the Scottish Exchequer, said: “I’ve never seen the FM this angry in all my cabinets… for good reason”.

Later, former deputy First Minister John Swinney was asked about the same incident, and shown a WhatsApp exchange between Mr Yousaf and Mr Leitch about it.

The Herald:

In the messages, Mr Yousaf said: “I took a hell of a bullet at Cabinet(!). 

“We think we can find £100m within the portfolio… 

“FM not remotely happy it’s at this last stage but let’s see if it strengthens a package of measures that are far too weak as things stand.”

Mr Leitch replied: “I was listening. I almost intervened to deflect you. She was ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. And yes to the principle.”

Mr Yousaf replied: “I didn’t realise you were on the call. 

“Ack, that’s just the way it is. Her ranting at me isn’t the problem. I can take it. It’s whether the quantum at this stage helps us strengthen the package. 

“Though feel free to defend me at a later stage [laughter emoji].”

Reacting to the exchange, Mr Swinney denied cabinet meetings were “driven by Nicola Sturgeon’s strong mindedness”.

He also disagreed that challenging her was “seen as taking a bullet”.

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He said: “I think that particular morning, the first minister was a little bit surprised that the health portfolio had been able to find £100 million to transfer to business support.

“In all my 10 years of handling the public finances of Scotland, the health secretary never offered me £100 million in exchange for anything.”