Government secrecy disfigures Covid Inquiry - Ian Murray

​If events in Scottish politics from the last 12 months have shown us one thing, it’s that there is a dangerous culture of secrecy within the Scottish Government that stems from the top.
National Clinical Director Jason Leitch at a Scottish Government Covid-19 press conference at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, in 2021National Clinical Director Jason Leitch at a Scottish Government Covid-19 press conference at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, in 2021
National Clinical Director Jason Leitch at a Scottish Government Covid-19 press conference at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, in 2021

Last year, when allegations of fundraising fraud from within the SNP were only just coming to light, we began to see a glimpse of the toxic cover-up culture that sits at the centre of government.

Since then, we’ve learnt that Scottish Government officials have refused to provide vital information on the disastrous Deposit Return Scheme and the CalMac ferries fiasco - there seems to be a pattern emerging here.

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The UK Covid Inquiry now sits in Scotland for three weeks where we have heard from the inquiry’s counsel that Nicola Sturgeon appeared to “have retained no messages whatsoever” and Scotland’s National Clinical Director had a “pre-bed ritual” of deleting WhatsApp messages as well as advising then-Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf how to dodge Covid face mask rules.

If the Scottish Government agrees that his behaviour was inappropriate then it is only right that Mr Leitch is sacked. Not only does this show how senior government officials have treated the inquiries with utter contempt but most importantly, bereaved families.

This is a complete betrayal of a clear promise to the bereaved families as Nicola Sturgeon explicitly committed to keeping these messages.

More news of Covid cover-ups should not come as a surprise, however, if we look back to February 2020 and the Nike conference in Edinburgh that led to one of the first known Covid-19 outbreaks in Scotland.

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Sturgeon then failed to call a lockdown until three weeks later and it was only when the BBC uncovered news of the breakout that the public were made aware.

At the time, I tried to seek answers from the former First Minister on behalf of Edinburgh residents but the repeated response was that any cover-up was “complete and utter nonsense”.

Benefitting from the status as one of Scotland’s most authoritative political figures meant that Sturgeon’s dismissal of systemic secrecy was often irrefutable, but with her gone and the SNP establishment in disarray, the extent of cover-up culture that exists at the heart of Scottish Government is finally receiving long-awaited scrutiny.

And while the SNP do have a characteristic knack for avoiding transparency, this culture of sleaze, secrecy and cover-up no doubt thrives within the UK Government too.

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From Partygate revelations to the shocking chaos in Number 10 that was uncovered when the inquiry sat in London, we have been given countless examples of the appalling way this Tory Government conducts its business.

As part of my job, I talk to hard-working local and national businesses on a weekly basis and there is no way they would tolerate that way of behaving in their own business, whatever the crisis. In fact, it wouldn’t be tolerated in any other walk of life.

The truth is that Scotland has two governments mired in cover-up and scandal. Both the Tories and the SNP are completely devoid of morality and competence. It’s only a Labour Government in both Westminster and Holyrood with honest, integrity and credibility at its heart that will be able to wash away this culture of concealment and contempt for democracy that Scottish people have suffered for far too long.

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