THE SNP have called on the UK Government to be transparent over its handling of the coronavirus crisis after it emerged Dominic Cummings had been attending meetings of a top scientific advisory group.

A row broke out yesterday after it was revealed Boris Johnson’s top aide had attended sessions of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) committee, which is helping shape the response to the crisis.

It was also reported by The Guardian that a leaked list showed Ben Warner, a data scientist who worked with Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum, had been present at meetings.

The membership of the committee and the advice being given to ministers has been kept secret, but pressure has been growing on the UK Government to make details of the group public.

READ MORE: UK Government facing calls on transparency over scientific advice

SNP MP Joanna Cherry tweeted: “It’s pretty clear now why UK Govt wouldn’t say who was on Sage.

“The ‘following the science’ mantra is revealed for the cop out it is. Politicians take advice then take decisions. Politicians have agency & Cummings is up to his neck in this fiasco.”

SNP MSP George Adam said: “It is absolutely vital that the UK Government’s response to this crisis is open, transparent and is a process which the public can trust and have confidence in.

“In Scotland, we are fully committed to being as open and transparent as possible, as demonstrated every day by Nicola Sturgeon and her team of ministers and officials.”

It was reported Cummings and Warner were members of Sage, but this was denied by Downing Street who said the pair had attended meetings to better understand the science involved and how it could inform government decision making.

UK Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the disclosure raised “significant questions” about the credibility of government decision-making.

“Dominic Cummings has no place on the Government’s scientific advisory group on the coronavirus,” he said.

“He is a political adviser, not a medical or scientific expert. If the public are to have confidence in the Sage, the Government must make clear Dominic Cummings can no longer participate or attend.

“We also need full transparency on who is attending meetings of Sage and what is being discussed.”

A Downing Street spokesman said Sage provides independent scientific advice to the Government, adding “political advisers have no role in this”.

He said: “The scientists on Sage are among the most eminent in their fields. It is factually wrong and damaging to sensible public debate to imply their advice is affected by government advisers listening to discussions.

“Public confidence in the media has collapsed during this emergency partly because of ludicrous stories such as this.”

Professor Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, who is a member of Sage, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme yesterday: “My experience of Sage is that it is a forum for scientific discussion.

“It is the experts from a variety of backgrounds who discuss the evidence, they discuss the evidence base of the various topics, they come to conclusions around that evidence base. It is then, of course, the role of Sage to advise the Government.

“I have been confident that what happens at Sage is a scientific discussion involving the scientists and the experts who are members of Sage.”

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Cummings – famously described as a “career psychopath” by former prime minister David Cameron (above) – is a controversial figure with questions raised over the extent of his power and influence within Downing Street.

Last month allegations emerged that he had initially argued against strict measures to control Covid-19, with his view summarised as “if that means some pensioners die, too bad”.

The accusation was rejected by Downing Street as a “highly defamatory fabrication.”

However the UK Government has faced criticisms that its initial response to the virus was too weak and based on the idea that allowing enough people to contract it would give the population “herd immunity”. Number 10 denied this, but the term had been used by the UK’s chief scientific adviser.

In January, Cummings put out a call for “misfits and weirdos” to work in No 10 in a rambling blog post of nearly 3000 words. One section read: “We need some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole, weirdos from William Gibson novels like that girl hired by Bigend as a brand ‘diviner’ who feels sick at the sight of Tommy Hilfiger or that Chinese-Cuban free runner from a crime family hired by the KGB.”

This led to the appointment of Andrew Sabisky, who soon had to resign over comments made previously on eugenics, race and welfare claimants.

Further controversy was sparked when it emerged Cummings had suggested in 2014 the NHS should pay for selecting babies to have higher IQs.