Pressure mounts on Sturgeon over use of SNP emails for Government business

The UK Covid-19 Inquiry heard she gave an email address to an adviser where she said she could be reached ‘privately’.

Craig Paton
Wednesday 24 January 2024 16:34 GMT
Nicola Sturgeon is under under pressure over her use of SNP email addresses during the pandemic (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Nicola Sturgeon is under under pressure over her use of SNP email addresses during the pandemic (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

The Scottish Conservatives have urged former first minister Nicola Sturgeon to publish all private party emails used for Government business.

In a message between Ms Sturgeon and public health expert Professor Devi Sridhar – shown to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry – the former first minister provided an SNP email address where she said she could be contacted “privately” alongside her official email where she could be reached “officially”, in a conversation about a briefing paper on the pandemic.

The PA news agency understands Ms Sturgeon forwarded any emails from Prof Sridhar to the Scottish Government and offered to give them to the inquiry should that be required.

The Tories have now urged Ms Sturgeon to publish any emails to or from her SNP account relating to Government business during her time in Bute House.

In a letter to the former first minister, Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: “Given your willingness to hand out your party email so liberally, it is clear that you frequently used the party email during the pandemic.

“In the interests of transparency, it is vital that you provide to the public all party emails you sent and received that informed your decision making during the pandemic.

“The extent to which party emails were used to conduct the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic is still not clear, but yesterday’s revelation shows it may be widespread.

“To ensure that those who lost loved ones during the pandemic get the answers they deserve about the retention of documents regarding Scottish Government decision-making, you should ask all ministers who were in government at the time to provide any personal or SNP party emails they sent or received that informed their decision-making.”

He said failing to divulge the emails would “only add to the conclusion” that the Scottish Government made decisions during the pandemic “in secret”.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie has written to Permanent Secretary John Paul Marks – Scotland’s top civil servant – asking what action he has taken to investigate the issue.

“Like millions of Scots I have watched the ongoing UK Covid-19 Inquiry with increasing concern,” she wrote.

“Families deserve justice and answers – but it is clear that the secretive and improper actions of senior SNP politicians, advisers and civil servants are denying the people the answers they deserve.

“Yesterday, it was revealed that Nicola Sturgeon – the former first minister – directed advisers to email her at her SNP party email address in a clear and deliberate breach of protocol.

“This action means that important information regarding the pandemic may not be accessible to the public.”

Dame Jackie said she has been told by former cabinet ministers “the use of SNP emails was widespread”.

A source close to Ms Sturgeon told PA: “Any emails relevant to the management of the pandemic received by Nicola to her private email were passed to the Scottish Government so that they could be actions and recorded appropriately.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government is committed to responding to both the UK and Scottish Covid-19 inquiries, as learning lessons from the pandemic is vital to prepare for the future.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on any matters being considered by the UK Covid Inquiry while hearings are ongoing.

“The Permanent Secretary will reply to the letter in due course.”

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