‘Disrespectful’ leak of First Minister’s Covid statement investigated

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The Scottish Government has launched an investigation into the leaking of the First Minister’s Covid-19 statement.

Details of the statement – where the 500-person cap on outdoor events was lifted, allowing fans to attend football games and the Six Nations – were reported hours before they were made to MSPs.

The leak drew the ire of Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone, who described it as “extremely disappointing and disrespectful to this parliament”.

Responding to the Presiding Officer, Nicola Sturgeon said an investigation would be launched into the leak.

Alison Johnstone in Holyrood
The Presiding Officer said the leak was ‘disappointing and disrespectful’ (Russell Cheyne/PA)

“Aside from disrespect to parliament, which is a very serious matter, let me also assure you there is no benefit or advantage to the Scottish Government in the contents of these statements being known in advance of me delivering them to parliament,” she said.

“I have asked my officials to look into this matter and I can advise the chamber that the Scottish Government’s chief information security officer will be undertaking appropriate inquiries to establish if there has indeed been a leak of some of the contents of this statement in advance of me delivering it and, if so, what the circumstances and the source of that are.”

Ms Johnstone has previously been firm when details of major announcements appear in the press, warning Health Secretary Humza Yousaf in September she may cancel future government statements and move straight to opposition questions after a newspaper reported the fire service would be called in to aid the ambulance service.

Ahead of the statement, the Presiding Officer said: “Before I call the First Minister, I am aware that details of today’s Covid-19 update have been reported in the media prior to being announced to the parliament.

“I should not be reading in the media that they have seen a draft copy of the statement before it has been made to this parliament.

“This is extremely disappointing and is disrespectful to this parliament and its elected members.

“I have spoken to the minister for parliamentary business about this and he has informed me that the government will be undertaking an inquiry into the leak.

“Now I will allow this statement to be delivered today because I cannot be assured that all elected members have seen the full draft and also that it’s important that the public hear the full detail.”

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