THE Scottish Government did not engage with Alister Jack during its response to the pandemic as he “contributed nothing of useful value”, according to John Swinney.

Appearing in-front of the UK Covid Inquiry on Tuesday, former deputy first minister Swinney was questioned about why the Secretary of State for Scotland did not appear to assist in the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle the virus.

Claire Mitchell KC, who was appearing on behalf of the Scottish Covid Bereaved Group, said: “In your written evidence to this inquiry, you say that you experienced ‘no tangible presence’ of Alister Jack in any aspect of work in handling the pandemic in Scotland.

“My question to you is: were there efforts made to engage him in this process? If so, what?”

Swinney replied: “The short answer is probably no because there was no real value in it.

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“If the Scottish Government had a problem with the UK Government the best way to solve it was to go directly to the person in the UK Government.

“And indeed we had interlocutors who were quite helpful in trying to help resolve these issues.

“In my experience the Secretary of State for Scotland would have contributed nothing of useful value in assisting us in that process.”

He was then asked whether he was aware of Jack’s concerns about the availability of Scottish pandemic data to the UK Government.

Swinney said he was not aware of his concerns but said that if there were issues with the availability of data it was up to the Secretary of State to raise them.

“I felt in Scotland we got data sets really very quickly in the pandemic," he said. 

The National: Alister Jack

“I, obviously, am not intimate about what was going on in the United Kingdom government [or] what information was available there.

“If there was a problem with Scottish data being available for the United Kingdom government, bluntly, that’s an issue for the Secretary of State for Scotland to try and address because that’s supposed to be his job.”

Mitchell questioned whether it was a loss for the Scottish Government not to have used the Secretary of State as a “conduit” on that basis.

However, Swinney said that Jack had not shown himself to be useful in this regard.

“In my experience of dealing with the current Secretary of State for Scotland – and I would not be saying this about his predecessor – he is not a help to get things resolved. His predecessor was," he said.

“David Mundell was of enormous assistance in trying to get things sorted out. That’s not been my experience with the current Secretary of State for Scotland.”

Former finance minister Kate Forbes appeared in-front of the Inquiry earlier on Tuesday. 

During her questioning she said that it was clear to her and the other devolved administrations that the Barnett Formula "couldn’t bear the weight of an emergency" such as a pandemic.