THE First Minister has offered an "unreserved" apology for the "poor" handling of requests for WhatsApp messages by the Scottish Government at the UK Covid Inquiry.

Humza Yousaf - who served as health secretary during the pandemic - insisted there was "no excuse" for the deletion of messages by top politicians and officials, adding that the Government "should have done better".

The inquiry heard last week that former first minister Nicola Sturgeon appeared to “have retained no messages whatsoever,” though she later clarified the inquiry does have copies of her informal messages.

The hearing in Edinburgh was also told that her then-deputy John Swinney's WhatsApp messaging was set to auto-delete.

Jamie Dawson KC had put it to Yousaf that it was “important” for the “material relating to the way in which decisions were taken" to be retained so that "lessons could be learned and a better response to the pandemic be developed”.

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Yousaf said that was correct and added: "On this issue of informal messages, including WhatsApps, let me unreservedly apologise to this inquiry but also to those who are mourning the loss of a loved one by Covid, for the government's frankly poor handling of the various Rule Nine requests in relation to informal messaging. 

"There's no excuse for it. We should have done better, and it's why I reiterate that public apology today."

Yousaf had earlier in the day made the same apology in the Holyrood chamber at First Minister's Questions

He went on to say there was an "awareness" among ministers that government business should be recorded in the corporate record but for "a long time" the "organisational mindset" of the Government had been that as long as the corporate body had all the salient points, that was all that was required.

Yousaf said: "There is clearly a gap that exists in relation to how informal material should be retained."

He announced during FMQs that he had commissioned an externally-led review into the use of mobile messaging apps and the use of non-corporate technology in the Scottish Government.