Nicola Sturgeon: Scottish Government ‘urgently’ searching for missing 'Gold Command' pandemic minutes

Humza Yousaf said any information would be handed to the UK Covid Inquiry

The Scottish Government is "urgently” looking into whether it has any further notes or minutes from key pandemic meetings that it can provide to the UK Covid Inquiry.

Humza Yousaf confirmed the move at First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) in Holyrood on Thursday.

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The inquiry was previously told that meetings of senior ministers outside the Scottish Cabinet – known as the “gold command” – were not minuted.

Nicola Sturgeon chairs her final Cabinet meeting in March last year. Picture: Andy Buchanan/pool/Getty ImagesNicola Sturgeon chairs her final Cabinet meeting in March last year. Picture: Andy Buchanan/pool/Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon chairs her final Cabinet meeting in March last year. Picture: Andy Buchanan/pool/Getty Images

Giving evidence earlier this week, Kate Forbes, the former finance secretary, said she was “surprised” to learn this.

Jamie Dawson KC, lead counsel to the inquiry, said the body had asked the Scottish Government for all its relevant papers and no minutes for gold command were provided.

He said: “It becomes difficult to understand what the ultimate decision-making process was when there is no record of how those decisions were taken.”

During FMQs, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton challenged Mr Yousaf on the failure to minute the gold command meetings, which involved Ms Sturgeon and other senior figures, including Mr Yousaf.

Alex Cole-Hamilton. Picture: Jane Barlow - Pool / Getty ImagesAlex Cole-Hamilton. Picture: Jane Barlow - Pool / Getty Images
Alex Cole-Hamilton. Picture: Jane Barlow - Pool / Getty Images

Mr Cole-Hamilton said this was a “secret central committee” that was “in charge, it seems, of everything” during the pandemic.

He demanded the First Minister launch a ministerial code investigation into the lack of gold command record-keeping.

“Presiding Officer, we did hear striking testimony yesterday from the former first minister,” Mr Cole-Hamilton said.

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“About a personal phone on which she retained WhatsApp messages for the [Alex] Salmond Inquiry, but deleted them for every aspect of the pandemic, forever denying the bereaved families an insight into the mind of the person who held all of the power.

“About hospitality rules seemingly made up at random … and a secret central committee, in charge it seems of everything, about which the finance secretary knew nothing and of which there are no minutes. A government within a government.

“Humza Yousaf saw all of this and yet, did nothing. So why is he now standing in the way of a ministerial code investigation?

Mr Yousaf responded: “On gold command meeting minutes, which Alex Cole-Hamilton asked me about, the Government is urgently examining and exploring that, and it will hand over to the inquiry any notes that we have on gold command minutes and meetings.”

The First Minister’s commitment comes as it was revealed Ms Sturgeon gave the mobile phone she used during the first year of the pandemic to a family member.

Ms Sturgeon confirmed the location of her previous smartphone in a written statement to the Covid inquiry, published on Thursday.

"The mobile phone I used prior to upgrading around December 2020 is not in my possession," Ms Sturgeon said in the statement. "Having transferred to my new phone, I later gave the old handset to a family member whose phone had broken."

The Scotsman understands the phone was wiped before being given to the family member.

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to responding to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry and has provided over 19,000 documents in response to the requests received. As has been heard in evidence to the inquiry, this has included notes of meetings often referred to as ‘gold command'.

“As the First Minister set out, given the questions publicly raised about this, we have urgently reviewed all material held to ensure the Scottish Government is cooperating fully with the Inquiry’s requests.”



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