UK Covid Inquiry: Jason Leitch called MSP a 'smarta*se' in private messages with Humza Yousaf

The national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, accused another politician of ‘harrumphing like a child’

Jason Leitch accused one MSP of "harrumphing like a child" and called another a "smarta*se" in private WhatsApp messages with Humza Yousaf, it has emerged.

Messages provided to the UK Covid Inquiry by the First Minister detail conversations between the pair during the pandemic. Mr Yousaf was justice secretary from 2018 to 2021 and then took over the health brief following the Holyrood election.

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Mr Leitch, the national clinical director, messaged the-then health secretary in June 2021 following a briefing he had provided to MSPs. "They were mostly fine,” he told Mr Yousaf. “Very reasonable and predictable. Edward Mountain rude and Daniel Johnson a smarta*se. Otherwise fine.”

Jason LeitchJason Leitch
Jason Leitch

Mr Mountain is a Tory MSP and Daniel Johnson is a Labour MSP.

The national clinical director continued: “My Mum taught me never to be rude. Mountain was head shaking and a child.” Mr Yousaf had earlier replied: “Doesn't surprise me about Mountain or DJ frankly.”

He said Paul Sweeney, another Labour MSP, “will also be one to watch, he will tell you how to do your job”.

Mr Leitch responded: “He's had a go on Twitter previously. Anas [Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader] says he's struggling with him and new girl Mercedes [Villalba, a Labour MSP].”

Labour and the Tories were approached for comment.

Mr Yousaf previously offered an “unreserved” apology for the Scottish Government’s “frankly poor” handling of requests from the UK Covid Inquiry for WhatsApp messages to be handed over. He told the inquiry he accepted this would have caused “serious grief and re-trauma” for those who lost loved ones during the pandemic.

Senior officials, including Prof Leitch, have told the inquiry they routinely deleted WhatsApp messages. They say they were following Scottish Government guidance, which said messages should be deleted at least monthly and any key points officially logged.

WhatsApp messages submitted to the inquiry by Liz Lloyd, who was Nicola Sturgeon’s chief of staff, show the former first minister described Boris Johnson as a “f**king clown” in late October 2020.

Ms Sturgeon will give evidence on Wednesday.



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