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Nicola Sturgeon’s top aide Liz Lloyd handed a raft of her WhatsApp messages over to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry in July – two months before Humza Yousaf claimed officials were asked for them.

Ms Lloyd, who was a central figure in Covid planning during the pandemic, was asked to hand over her correspondence and notebooks this summer.

The Scottish Mail on Sunday has spoken to a former Minister who was also asked to hand over WhatsApp messages in July.

The shock revelations raise questions about the statements Mr Yousaf and his deputy Shona Robison made to MSPs, with both claiming Ministers and officials were first asked for messages in September.

It will also pile pressure on Ms Sturgeon to say if she has deleted key WhatsApp correspondence, amid reports the ex-First Minister manually destroyed messages.

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with Liz Lloyd, who was a central figure in Covid planning during the pandemic

Concerns are swirling within the SNP that Ms Lloyd’s WhatsApps could expose disputes with Ms Sturgeon about lockdown timing and the decision to move elderly people out of hospitals to care homes.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: ‘These revelations about Liz Lloyd and a former Minister only raise more questions and heap more pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to come clean about whether she deleted WhatsApp messages.

‘Humza Yousaf has no option but to correct the record because it’s clear he misled parliament. There is a shocking culture of secrecy within the SNP Government.

‘Grieving families deserve full transparency, which is why the First Minister and Deputy First Minister need to be honest and set the record straight.’

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie added: ‘Humza Yousaf’s story is collapsing before our eyes. These revelations make clear the failure to hand over

documents has nothing to do with the law.

‘People want Humza and the SNP to come clean – but instead they’ve adopted a campaign to cover up their Covid decisions that would make the Tories blush.’

Mr Yousaf was accused of misleading parliament at the end of last week after he and Ms Robison told the chamber the UK Covid-19 Inquiry had first asked for private messages relating to the handling of the pandemic in September.

His statement came after concerns were raised by the inquiry’s lawyer, Jamie Dawson, KC, who said the Scottish Government did not appear to have retained all of its messages. A Section 21 order forced the Scottish Government to release all messages it did hold at the end of last month.

During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Mr Yousaf insisted requests for information were only made ‘a matter of weeks ago’ in September.

But yesterday a source confirmed Ms Lloyd ­complied with a request made by the inquiry in July – two months before the date quoted by Mr Yousaf. As well as WhatsApps, she is said to have handed over notebooks detailing how key ­decisions were made.

One insider said: ‘Liz Lloyd is Scotland’s Dominic Cummings, she was at the very heart of our Covid response. I understand the pair had differences of opinions over when to impose lockdown.’

Humza Yousaf tells MSPs Covid correspondence was only asked for in September

Last night, The Mail on Sunday spoke to a former Scottish Government Minister who said they too had been asked for detailed correspondence by the Covid Inquiry in July. They have handed over a draft submission, they claim, of all relevant material.

It is understood that each Minister and official is being asked around 500 tailored questions about their role in handling the Covid pandemic.

One person last night said: ‘They are very specific questions’.

Mr Yousaf and Ms Robison’s claims that they were first asked for messages in September has been contradicted by a Scottish Government statement that said a request was made in ‘late 2022’, believed to be around December.

Last week Ms Sturgeon refused to say whether she had deleted any messages. Ms Lloyd was Ms ­Sturgeon’s chief of staff while she was in top office.

Last night the Scottish Government admitted the UK Covid inquiry had issued requests, including for WhatsApp messages, to individuals in the summer.

It conceded that only a ‘corporate request’ for information from the Scottish Government as a whole was issued in September, the date mentioned by Mr Yousaf in FMQs.

It is not known if Ms Lloyd – who now works at advisory firm Flint –will be called as a witness by the inquiry. She declined to comment last night.

Content source – www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com

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