Covid Scotland update: Alister Jack denies knowing about or attending Downing Street Christmas parties

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has denied knowing about or attending any Christmas parties held at Downing Street during the height of the pandemic late last year.

Mr Jack was heckled by MPs on Wednesday as he listed positives about Boris Johnson, amid claims the Prime Minister is a bigger threat to the union than nationalists.

The Scottish Secretary praised Mr Johnson as a “man of optimism and vision” while also praising his role in Brexit and the vaccine rollout, but faced mocking taunts from those assembled on the opposition benches.

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Scottish Secretary Alister Jack arrives at Downing Street. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Mr Jack was quizzed by SNP Mhairi Black on reports of parties held in No. 10 during the pandemic, less than 24 hours after a photograph emerged of a previously reported party held by Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey’s campaign team on December 14 last year.

Mr Bailey has since quit as head of the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee.

Ms Black questioned the Scottish Secretary: “Could I ask the minister whether he was invited to any of these parties in Downing Street or whether he had any knowledge of these parties?”

Mr Jack told MPs in the Commons: “A, I’d no knowledge of the parties and b, I wasn’t at any of them.”

Speaking separately in the Commons, shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “Every day there are more and more revelations about the Prime Minister and this Government breaking their own lockdown rules.

“It’s truly one rule for them and one for the rest of us.

“As the country cancelled Christmas last year, the Prime Minister had a party or three. They’ve lost all moral authority to lead this country – scandal, sleaze and cronyism writ large.

“Even the Scottish Conservative leader [Douglas Ross] was asked three times on the media at the weekend if he could think of any positive attributes for the PM and couldn’t answer.

“So can I ask the Secretary of State can he think of any positive attributes for the Prime Minister and tell me any reason why this morally bankrupt Prime Minister isn’t a bigger threat to the union than any nationalist?”

Mr Jack replied: “Absolutely without any difficulty I can.

“He’s a man of optimism, he’s a man of vision. He’s a man who delivered the trade deal running up to Christmas last year when no-one said he could.

"He showed courage, he showed foresight in investing in the vaccine development, and he’s gone on to deliver the fastest rollout in Europe.”

Mr Murray replied: “I congratulate the Secretary of State for his reading skills and I notice the Secretary of State didn’t use the word honesty – there’s a surprise.

“I know the Secretary of State has cancelled his own Christmas party this year so I look forward to seeing the photographs in the press shortly.”

The Labour MP also raised concerns for the hospitality sector in Scotland given new Covid restrictions and asked how Westminster and Holyrood could work together to provide support.

Mr Jack recognised the sector was “under a lot of pressure” and said the Treasury announced it was giving the Scottish Government “certainty over their finances”.

He said: “What the Scottish Government has failed to do is to set out what measures they believe are right for Scotland and how much these would cost.”

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