ENTERTAINING as they were, the Covid messages between UK Government ministers was a mere sideshow to the Covid Inquiry’s purpose to establish the facts on how and why decisions were made.

The UK Inquiry asked for and was provided with all messages used by the Scottish Government in the management of the pandemic including over 13,000 documents. WhatsApp messages created in order to conduct government business were uploaded to the system of record which then makes conversations available to the Scottish Government.

The guidance for Government officials was to delete WhatsApp messages after a month. Removing old messages was considered good practice. This changed after the "Do Not Destroy" notice in August 2022. WhatsApp was never looked on as a significant form of communication for decision-making.

Among the factors many commentators have ignored is that the UK Inquiry is already in possession of Jeane Freeman's WhatsApp messages. Ms Freeman was the Scottish Government Health Secretary from June 28, 2018 to May 20, 2021 including the critical period where the most crucial decisions were made relating to pandemic management. Nicola Sturgeon was subjected to media interrogation during her daily briefings and her leadership proved so effective that it prompted Lord George Foulkes and the now-Dame Jackie Baillie to force the BBC to stop the briefings, then give opposition leaders an immediate opportunity to undermine the messaging.

The renewed unsubstantiated innuendo surrounding the Scottish Government’s use of WhatsApp messages is further evidence to the extent of how the Covid pandemic was politicised by opposition parties and sections of the media to a far greater extent than was the case in England or in Wales.

I don’t recall the BBC giving Labour, and never the third party, SNP, an immediate response to undermine Boris Johnson’s muddled messaging.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh.

What really did go on?

MY late father-in-law was in a Borders care home during the Covid pandemic when Nicola Sturgeon took the decision to transfer untested patients and those with Covid into care homes. The tragically high death toll Covid caused in care homes is widely known, and the horror of those difficult months is something Scots with elderly relatives in care can't forget.

Many hope for honesty and transparency from Ms Sturgeon and her erstwhile colleagues at the UK Covid Inquiry in Edinburgh, but sadly, this now seems to me unlikely. Ms Sturgeon's response at similar inquiries where her actions have been examined has appeared evasive: her Pavlovian replies to too many questions being a variation of "I can't remember". We learn that she (along with John Swinney and Jason Leitch) systematically deleted all WhatsApp messages ("Sturgeon urged to make statement as Covid families ‘consider’ criminal probe", The Herald, January 22). Mr Swinney and Professor Leitch's appear permanently lost.

It's unclear whether Ms Sturgeon's have been retrieved, but why did she delete them in the first place, after insisting in outraged tones, at her Covid TV briefings, that she would never do such an appalling thing? Deleting communications clearly won't assist anyone's inadequate memory. In London, the inquiry's examination of WhatsApp messages lent invaluable insight into decision-making, highlighting differing attitudes and opinions amongst those in power in London and affording us a glimpse through political spin.

Ms Sturgeon's actions may conceal at least part of the truth of what really happened in what was arguably one of the most significant times in our history. Is she trying to cover up that she principally copied Westminster yet claimed otherwise? Did she- aim to use Covid to revitalise her independence ambitions? Did she behave dictatorially or collegiately with her Cabinet? When she appears before the inquiry, we'll doubtless hear much from her about Westminster and witness her usual blame-game spiel. Yet I fear it's less likely we'll achieve an adequate understanding of what truly went on in her administration during Covid.

Martin Redfern, Melrose.

Read more: Scotland has never been in a worse state than it is under Yousaf

The facts on excess deaths

WILLIAM Loneskie (Letters, January 20) makes two fundamental errors in his letter on Covid and excess deaths.

First, while Scotland has a population density of 70 people per square kilometre, and England 434 people/km², this ignores that most people live in cities. Glasgow has a population density of 3400 people/km². By this metric, how much worse does he expect Glasgow to have fared than England? Better to use population-weighted density, which acknowledges many people live in the densely populated areas, and some of the less densely populated areas are simply empty.

The second is comparing percentages. That Scotland, with 3.0% excess deaths had 0.2 percentage points fewer excess deaths than England, not 0.2% fewer excess deaths. After adjusting for the expected number of deaths, for every 15 excess deaths in Scotland, there were 16 in England. 6.25% fewer.

But I am curious as to his assertion that in a future pandemic there should be a single unitary authority, because viruses do not recognise borders. Should this cross-border authority be the EU, Nato, or the World Health Organization? At the same time, he questions whether locking down the entire country was the best way to go, when clearly we had separate restrictions even within Scotland because circumstances in London were not exactly the same as Glasgow or Lauder. How locally should these decisions be made next time?

Finally, the idea that we only needed to shield the vulnerable should have ended when the Prime Minister was admitted to hospital. Any metric that included Boris Johnson amongst the vulnerable would have included a huge swathe of the population, and then required everyone sharing a household, workplace or otherwise being part of their bubble to also shield.

Alan Ritchie, Glasgow.

It's all about our values

JANE Lax (Letters, January 20) raises that old chestnut about Scottish independence and nationalism. The irony being of course, that the accusation is often spat out by those wrapped in a Union Jack.

Scottish independence is largely based on internationalism and progressive values, and all logical convolutions won't change that.

In respect of who subsidises whom, you would only have to look at the UK region that got the huge infrastructure investment in the last 45 years to realise the truth.

That, however, is not the point. The Yes camp largely believes that Scotland could do better on its own and this belief is not founded on any notion of Scottish exceptionalism.

Iain Cope, Glasgow.

The Herald: Should Rishi Sunak cut his losses and call a General Election now?Should Rishi Sunak cut his losses and call a General Election now? (Image: Getty)

Sunak should cut his losses

FROM my perspective the time has come for Rishi Sunak to cut his losses and call an immediate General Election. It is the utmost folly to sail blindly on with little or no chance of a lifebelt emerging to save the Tory ship from sinking under the litany of failures presided over by this Government.

He will never recover from Partygate in the short term and neither will his Conservative Party. The Liz Truss policy disaster and his doomed-to-failure Rwanda scheme only serve to exacerbate the situation. The HS2 debacle, the failure to curb net migration and the failure to stop the boats has also served to hole his party below the waterline.

In the wings of course is the UK Covid Inquiry which has constantly highlighted failures in Government policy, albeit being delivered with the benefit of hindsight.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson Covid handling was night and day

Blaming external factors such as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine can only be used by the Government in partial mitigation. The sad truth is that nothing seems to be working in our country at the moment, be it the health service and the eternal waiting lists, poor social care, education and the crumbling Raac-infected schools, most other public services at breaking point, the constant rail, and now junior doctor, strikes, and of course the ongoing cost of living crisis. So, it is time for the electorate to have their say and whether they are prepared to stick with the status quo and hope for a miraculous restoration of Tory fortunes, or feel it is time for Labour to take a turn at running the country, something must happen and soon.

Being a Conservative supporter all my life, it pains me to state the obvious need for change in our political landscape. Labour still has a mountain to climb however, if it is to return to power and will need a bigger swing than the 18.5% Tony Blair achieved in 1997, to even have an overall majority of one. However if the nation chooses the latter course of action, then so be it. I for one will be disappointed but not at all surprised.

Christopher H Jones, Giffnock.