Scotland’s First Minister cornered as accusations of erased messages add fuel to political firestorm
In a sudden whirlwind of scrutiny, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, found herself encircled by a relentless press corps earlier today. The bone of contention? Reports emerging over the weekend indicating that Ms. Sturgeon has allegedly wiped clean her WhatsApp messages from the critical period of Scotland’s confrontation with the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the cameras clicked and journalists jostled for a scoop, Ms. Sturgeon stood her ground, proclaiming she had “nothing to hide”. However, her refusal to delve into the specifics of whether any messages had been expunged cast a long shadow over her assertions of innocence. “I am committed to full transparency to this inquiry”, she averred, amidst the echoing clamour of the press. Yet, as the Deputy First Minister echoed through the hallowed halls of the chamber, the content of requests and responses would remain shrouded in secrecy until the inquiry deems otherwise.
The atmosphere tensed as a journalist cut through the rehearsed rhetoric, pressing the First Minister for a clear answer on the fate of her messages. Ms. Sturgeon’s reticence to confirm or deny the erasure of her messages added fuel to the blazing scepticism. Her reply was one of evasion, stating, “Any messages I had, I handled and dealt with in line with the policies set out by the Deputy First Minister… I will be setting out how I operated, how I worked during the pandemic; what I hold and what I don’t hold and the reasons for that”.
Her defense took a turn, drawing a comparison to the troves of WhatsApp messages relinquished to the inquiry by the titans of the UK Government – Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson, and Rishi Sunak. She was quick to distance herself from the assumption of a digital-first modus operandi, declaring emphatically, “I did not manage the Covid response by WhatsApp.” Ms. Sturgeon illustrated a scene of tireless management from the austere environs of St Andrew’s House, through in-person meetings, Zoom and Teams calls, far removed from the casual chatter of WhatsApp groups.
Amidst the barrage of inquiries, an image emerged of Ms. Sturgeon, vowing to lay bare her actions before the UK-wide Covid inquiry “early in the new year”. However, the spectre of suspicion loomed larger as the former SNP leader was probed on the potential for allegations of a coverup. With a stoic resolve, she reiterated, “I gave my all to the management of the pandemic. Transparency – for the families affected, for everyone affected by the pandemic – matters really a lot to me”.
But for the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, reassurances fell on deaf ears. The demand was clear; unless a “reasonable excuse” for the deletion of WhatsApp messages is provided by Ms. Sturgeon, legal ramifications including fines and an imprisonment of up to 51 weeks should be on the table. A stern letter to Humza Yousaf, penned by the group’s lawyer, evoked the gravity of a Section 21 notice with “criminal penalties”, hoping to “focus minds” and ensure an unyielding compliance with requests.
The waters muddied further as information surfaced that Humza Yousaf and former Deputy First Minister John Swinney too, had their messages wiped clean. The inquiry last week unveiled a stark contrast between the ephemeral communications of key Scottish ministers and their UK counterparts, who had handed over substantial digital discourse “in high volumes”.
As the inquiry marches forward, the elusive WhatsApp messages of Scotland’s political echelon morph into a symbol of transparency or lack thereof. The unfolding saga casts a pall over the Scottish administration’s handling of the pandemic, with the ghost of missing messages haunting the hollow assurances of unyielding transparency. Only time and the relentless probing of the inquiry will reveal if the whispers of WhatsApp will echo through the annals of Scotland’s Covid narrative. Story Source