Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has been criticised by the leader of the Scottish Tories after admitting to the UK Covid Inquiry that he deleted all WhatsApp messages to free up storage space on his phone.

The UK Scottish Secretary was giving evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry in Edinburgh and claimed he deleted no messages related to government business because, he said, he did not conduct business on WhatsApp.

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon has been heavily criticised after admitting she deleted WhatsApp messages during her time in power during the pandemic despite vowing to hand over all communications to the inquiry.  

Leader of the Scottish Conservative, Douglas Ross, said that "Alister Jack was wrong to delete WhatsApp messages", adding that "he has apologised".

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon admits deleting Covid WhatsApp messages

Speaking during his evidence session, Mr Jack said that he “didn’t delete some of my WhatsApp messages”, adding that “I deleted all of them”.

The Scottish Secretary said that he deleted his messages to free up space on his phone.

Mr Jack admitted that he cleared messages from his phone in November 2021 and said he had not considered retaining them to help him recall events from the pandemic.

He said: “I deleted WhatsApps from my mother, my wife, my friends – I mean I just deleted all my WhatsApps – because that created the capacity that allowed my phone to carry on.”

The Scottish Secretary said he previously had a phone with 64 gigabytes of storage, but now has 512 gigabytes of capacity on his current device.

He added: “At the time, I didn’t think anything of it.”

Mr Jack told the inquiry he did not conduct “Government by WhatsApp”, preferring to speak to colleagues on the phone or face to face.

Asked by Claire Mitchell KC on behalf of the Scottish Covid Bereaved group if he had any thoughts about keeping the messages, he replied: “No, because I was keen for my phone to start working again.

“More importantly I knew that I did no government decisions by WhatsApp and that will be borne out by WhatsApps from ministers you do have.

Read more: Alister Jack: Nicola Sturgeon 'could cry from one eye if she wanted'

“That is something I was not in the habit of doing.”

Mr Jack said he is a “bit of a Luddite” and if he could “turn the clock back” he would have sought a different solution to his phone storage issues.

Ms Mitchell asked him whether he thought it was “a good idea if these contemporaneous records are somehow available and kept to be stored so in the event of a public inquiry” so that “those matters can be placed before an inquiry”.

Read more: Sturgeon regrets not locking down sooner as she apologises to bereaved

In response, Mr Jack said: “I do. If I could turn the clock back knowing what I know now, I would have sought a different solution for my lack of storage capacity.

“I’m a bit of a Luddite, I’m the only member of the Cabinet not to have any social media accounts but that’s no excuse.

“I regret that I deleted my entire account, I regret it for a number of reasons.

“I regret it because of the inquiry, I regret it because I hadn’t saved some family pictures and bits and pieces.

“I think these matters, all matters relating to an event like this, should be recorded within the offices of relevant ministers.”