Until recently it might have made sense for Humza Yousaf to cut Nicola Sturgeon loose over her sleekit and duplicitous lies around deleting Covid WhatsApp messages.

That’s no longer an option for our current First Minister, though, as he’s now clearly as big a liar - well, almost - as his predecessor.

It’s emerged that Sturgeon - and Yousaf - transcribed precisely ‘zero’ messages into the Scottish government’s record system. 

Sturgeon promised during Covid that all communications - including WhatsApps - would be handed over to any inquiry. That was a lie, evidently. She later admitted deleting messages.

Sturgeon then told the inquiry that “anything of any relevance or substance… would be properly recorded in the Scottish government system”.

Read more from Neil Mackay on Scotland's First Ministers and Covid comms:

However, freedom of information requests show Sturgeon transcribed “zero” messages. Zero messages were also transcribed by Yousaf, and former deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Yousaf initially denied reports he’d deleted WhatsApp messages, claiming last October that “I have kept and retained all of the WhatsApp messages”. We subsequently discovered this was a lie, and the messages were deleted.

The inquiry learned that Yousaf had “used WhatsApp with Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney to discuss matters”. 

Yousaf told the inquiry that these deleted messages would be put “on the corporate record”. That hasn’t happened.

The Herald: Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence before the UK Covid Inquiry last WednesdayNicola Sturgeon giving

The SNP MP John Nicolson was pontificating on social media this week about Sturgeon’s “legacy”. 

“Nicola Sturgeon,” he said, “did not do government business by WhatsApp. Alister Jack [the Scottish Secretary] did. As did Rishi Sunak. Both deleted all their messages. And ‘couldn’t’ retrieve them. Where’s the outrage?”

This is standard SNP nonsense. How do we know Sturgeon didn’t conduct government business via WhatsApp? Because she says so? Because the likes of Nicholson say so?

Forgive the cynicism, but when she’s been caught out lying, only a fool would take Sturgeon’s word, or the word of her hangers-on.

Sturgeon loyalists like Nicolson set a trap for themselves with such comments. He says that we should be outraged over Jack and Sunak - which indeed any right-thinking person should be. Why, therefore, should we not be outraged about his former boss?

The Herald:

For the record, the Scottish Information Commissioner has now launched official action into the Scottish government’s use of informal messaging. David Hamilton’s office says it has “significant practice concerns” over the use of WhatsApp by ministers.

Failing to retain a full record of decision-making has “subverted the principles” of freedom of information, he stated.

We should also remember that minutes were not kept for the Scottish government’s equivalent to Cobra meetings - the Scottish Government Resilience Room - or for what’s known as ‘gold command’ meetings.

Sturgeon’s legacy is now trash. Any good she did - and she did some good while in office, with policies like the Child Payment and others - is now entirely eclipsed by her lies. 

There’s no point in even discussing Yousaf’s legacy. It’s already in the dustbin and he’s been in office less than a year.

The SNP’s behaviour around Covid messaging has been loathsome, rotten. It insults the Covid dead and their families. 

At best, this government was useless and out of its depth, and this shambles is all down to utter inadequacy. At worst, though, matters which are in the public interest are being covered up.

It feels as if the SNP has used a deliberate tactic of sowing confusing - one minute messages aren’t deleted, the next they are, then they’re recorded, now they’re not - to throw both the press and public off balance in order to evade scrutiny and create enough chaos that it becomes cover.

That won’t work. Their card is marked, and this scandal is far from over.