THE SNP has warned the inquiry into the Downing Street lockdown parties must not become another "Whitehall whitewash" after media briefing downplayed its gravity.

The Times reported the probe led by government ethics veteran Sue Gray would not conclude Boris Johnson broke the ministerial code or find sufficient evidence of criminality to involve the police.

The paper also reported Ms Gray was considering censuring the Prime Minister for lack of judgment.

It prompted deep concern among some MPs, who have questioned how the contents could have been leaked prior to publication.

One Conservative MP told The Herald that it was a "clear effort by No 10 to pre-empt the investigation, and spin it in a way that makes Boris look positive".

In the Commons yesterday, Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain raised a point of order, asking Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle what guidance he could offer to Government ministers and officials to ensure “they do not leak the outcomes” of the investigation.

Sir Lindsay said it would be “entirely inappropriate” for any findings to be leaked.

“I cannot be clearer on this matter and expect the Government to announce the findings of the inquiry to this House first, and I will treat any failure to do so as a gross discourtesy to this House,” he said.

Despite her reputation for tough-mindedness, the SNP questioned whether Ms Gray’s could be truly independent as a civil servant answerable to the Prime Minister, who she is also investigating.

Only the Prime Minister can make a decision on his own conduct under the ministerial code.

The SNP has consistently called for a judge-led inquiry, wholly independent of government, to investigate parties in Downing Street in an apparent breach of tight Covid restrictions.

SNP Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Brendan O’Hara said: “Boris Johnson - as well as his former aide this week - has been forced to admit that these lockdown boozy parties took place and that he attended them. There is no grey area or dodging the truth that Johnson broke the rules that he expected everyone else to follow.

“Any suggestion that the findings from this internal inquiry led by Sue Gray could be independent has been smashed – it has already been used to brief journalists in advance that Boris Johnson will only be given a slap on the wrists."

The Argyll & Bute MP went on: “This report risks being a Whitehall whitewash - another scandal brushed under the Number 10 carpet.

"However, it won’t wash with the public, with an overwhelming majority of people across the UK believing that Johnson should resign.

"The reality is that no civil servant, however highly regarded, can be expected to be judge and jury on their bosses. The UK government cannot continue to mark their own homework.

"The SNP has been clear that only a judge-led inquiry, which is independent of government, is fit to properly investigate the countless rule-breaking drinking parties.

"This entire shameful episode has once again shone a light on this corrupt Tory government which is a rot in our politics and undermining public trust.

"Tory MPs have a duty to put the interests of the country first and remove him from office.

"They may try and brush these scandals aside, but the public won't forgive or forget."