DELETING WhatsApp messages was a “pre-bed ritual” for top Scottish Government adviser Jason Leitch during the pandemic, an inquiry has heard.

Messages shown to the UK Covid Inquiry, which is sitting in Edinburgh this week, showed Leitch, who is Scotland’s national clinical director, discussing deleting messages with colleagues in May 2021.

Ken Thomson, the Scottish Government’s director general of strategy and external affairs, posted to a group chat: “I feel moved at this point to remind you that this channel is FOI-recoverable”.

He accompanied the message with an emoji of a face with a mouth zipped shut.

After another person in the channel said to “clear the chat”, Leitch replied: “WhatsApp deletion is a pre-bed ritual.”

The Scottish Government claimed in October Leitch did not delete his WhatsApps every day during Covid. 

A do-not-destroy order was issued in 2022 to those involved in Government decision-making during the pandemic so records could be kept as evidence for the inquiry. 

READ MORE: Mother takes legal action against health board over child’s Long Covid treatment

It comes as the inquiry heard former first minister Nicola Sturgeon had retained no messages on the platform from her time at the head of Scotland’s Covid response.

She had previously given assurances that “nothing will be off limits” in terms of the evidence given to the Scottish public inquiry, which is running separately to the UK Covid Inquiry.  

Asked about whether she would give assurances she would hand over “emails, WhatsApps, private emails” to a future inquiry in August 2021, Sturgeon said: “I think if you understand statutory public inquiries, you would know that even if I wasn’t prepared to give that assurance, which for the avoidance of doubt I am, then I wouldn’t have the ability. This will be a judge-led statutory public inquiry.”

The Scottish Government has previously insisted decision-making is not conducted on WhatsApp but texts from UK ministers have revealed policy decisions were regularly discussed between politicians and officials south of the Border. 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The Scottish Government is committed to responding to both the UK and Scottish Covid-19 inquiries, as learning lessons from the pandemic is vital to prepare for the future.

"It would be inappropriate to comment on any matters being considered by the UK Covid Inquiry while hearings are ongoing.”