First Minister Humza Yousaf has promised a “robust defence” to Tory claims he and the Deputy First Minister misled Holyrood in a row over WhatsApp messages from during the Covid pandemic.
With a timeline showing the UK's Covid-19 inquiry had asked for them to be handed over in February this year, Mr Yousaf admitted last week that the Scottish Government had initially interpreted requests for messages “too narrowly” .
With MSPs previously saying the request for the WhatsApp messages was only made in September, the Conservatives insist Mr Yousaf and the deputy First Minister misled Parliament
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross tabled a motion, to be debated at Holyrood on Wednesday, calling for both Mr Yousaf and Deputy First Minister Shona Robison to be referred to the independent counsel to determine whether they have breached the ministerial code – which requires ministers to give “accurate and true information” to Parliament.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Yousaf said he would “listen to Parliament as soon as it takes a decision” on the issue.
He told the PA news agency: “We will be very forceful in this debate and, of course, neither the deputy first minister nor I have misled Parliament.
“Have we provided the full context of the requests that have been made and, more importantly, what people care about is have we delivered the material that we had in our possession?” The answer to that is absolutely, yes.”
The Scottish Government handed over 14,000 messages to the inquiry, including the First Minister's undated correspondence.
Mr Yousaf insisted this was in “very sharp contrast” to the UK government, which lost a court case for giving the inquiry access to the messages.
The Prime Minister went on to accuse the Tories of raising the issue to “distract attention from the utter turmoil, the chaos, that is engulfing their own party” in Westminster.
Mr Yousaf went on to claim that if ministers were cited for a possible breach of the code “every time the opposition demanded it, then councilors would have nothing else to do, they would be busy with constant referrals”.
The SNP leader said: “I've lost count of how many times the opposition have asked SNP ministers to impeach themselves.
“This is also just an attempt by the Conservatives to distract attention from the complete turmoil, the chaos, that is engulfing their own party in the UK government.”
He added: “We will defend our position strongly in the debate this evening, let's see what Parliament comes up with.”