SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has described the images of Boris Johnson and a number of staff members in the Downing Street garden with wine and cheese during the first lockdown as “jaw dropping”.

It comes after reports of a number of other Downing Street parties and gatherings held while pandemic restrictions were in place.

The civil servant announced to lead a Whitehall investigation into the alleged parties, Simon Case, had to step down last week after it was revealed he had been aware of a separate party in his own office during lockdown.

Speaking to Good Morning Scotland, Blackford reissued his party’s call for a fresh judge-led inquiry into Westminster gatherings and Christmas parties while Covid restrictions were in place.

The National:

On Sunday night as the photo, obtained by the Guardian, emerged, the SNP’s Westminster deputy leader Kirsten Oswald said an inquiry is the only way to “get to the bottom of all this”.

“This new photo raises more questions and erodes public trust further given Downing St denied this gathering ever took place,” she said.

“We need an independent arbitrator to oversee the inquiry - that owes the UK Government nothing - to ensure transparency and that this whole thing is taken seriously.

“Once again we see that the Tories think it’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us.”

READ MORE: REVEALED: Sajid Javid's bumper share options in firm linked to health sector

According to the Guardian and Independent’s sources, on May 15 around 20 staff drank wine and spirits and ate pizza following the press conference at which then health secretary Matt Hancock had told the British public to stay at home “as much as is possible”.

During the briefing, he had also stressed the rules in force meant “you can meet one other person from outside your household in an outdoor, public place” as long as you kept two metres apart.

The photograph shows Johnson sitting around a garden table with his then-fiancee Carrie, and two members of staff.

On the table are bottles of wine and a cheeseboard.

Four other members of staff are sat around a second table a distance away.

Nine people are then gathered on the grass, with another two sat on the floor to the right.

On Monday morning, UK Government figures were on the defensive.

Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said having a drink “after a long day or long week” was not against the regulations.

The National:

Raab told Times Radio: “Downing Street used that garden as a place of work. They used it for work meetings. The photo is from a day when, I think, the Prime Minister had just done a press conference.

“And sometimes they’ll have a drink after a long day or a long week. And that’s not against the regulations.”

Asked why Carrie was in attendance, Raab said: “It is not just a place of work for all the staff that work in Number 10 and the Prime Minister, but it is also the residence of the Prime Minister and his very young family. I genuinely don’t think it gets classified as a party because Carrie popped down and spent a little bit of time there with her husband.”

Raab was also asked whether he believes “someone or some group” was “dripping out leaks to bring Boris Johnson down”.

The Justice Secretary answered: “I think it’s certainly been done with an animus but, beyond that, I couldn’t really comment. I’m against speculating on these things.”

READ MORE: Downing Street panic as new tapes 'show ex aide quizzed on PM's private life'

Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, speaking to the Today programme, said the photograph was “evidence of law-breaking”.

“I do think there is evidence of law-breaking not just on this occasion, but on multiple occasions. The country is sick of it,” she told listeners.

“They want to see leadership from this Prime Minister and Government, and at the moment they’re hiding last year they were having a party. People are fed up with it.

“They want Government that know that the rules apply to them as well and provide leadership to protect families, protect the NHS and also to protect businesses. People are very sick and tired of this Government.”

Asked if she thinks Boris Johnson should step down, she said: “I think it is really difficult for the Prime Minister to set rules now and expect other people to follow them.

“[It] is just so clear on multiple occasions now that him and his ministers don’t stick by the very rules that they are requiring the rest of us to stick by … I think, frankly, a lot of us are just sick of it.”

Downing Street has insisted the May 15 gathering was within the rules, and a spokesman previously said: “On May 15 2020 the Prime Minister held a series of meetings throughout the afternoon, including briefly with the then health and care secretary and his team in the garden following a press conference.

“The Prime Minister went to his residence shortly after 7pm.

“A small number of staff required to be in work remained in the Downing Street garden for part of the afternoon and evening.”