What was your pre-bed ritual during the pandemic?
For some, it might have involved checking the news to see whether restrictions had been lifted or re-imposed in their area.
Others might have planned where they would walk during their precious one hour of permitted outdoor time the next day.
Many will have phoned to check in on loved ones they hadn’t been able to visit for months.
At the UK Covid Inquiry last week, we learnt that national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch described the process of deleting his WhatsApp texts as a “pre-bed ritual”.
This admission was made in a group chat that included a Scottish Government director of external affairs, who reminded participants that everything they said in it was “FOI recoverable”.
In other words, under Freedom of Information laws, the public have a right to access it.
Sourdough starters…and Joe Wicks?
This revelation has sparked fresh criticism of the lack of transparency in the Scottish Government and among senior officials during the pandemic.
But maybe we’re being too harsh.
Perhaps this group of key players in Scotland’s Covid response were discussing things not relevant to the inquiry now being held.
They might have been giving one another updates on the progress of their sourdough starters, or talking about they were getting on with Joe Wicks’ exercise regime.
But if that was the case: why the secrecy?
It’s a question that has been asked of the Scottish Government too.
It has said it is satisfied that all steps are being taken to meet the inquiry’s requests for information.
In a statement released on X, Nicola Sturgeon said her messages communicated through “informal means” were handed to the inquiry last year.
She added that while the messages had not been “retained” on her own device, she had obtained copies which had since been passed over.
Her statement came after counsel to the UK Covid Inquiry said last week that the former first minister appeared to have “retained no messages whatsoever” from the pandemic.
Amid criticism of the clear-the-chat culture that seems to have taken hold among officials during the pandemic, SNP politicians have lined up to trot out the same line in defence of their colleagues.
Namely, that, unlike the ne’er-do-wells and schemers that occupy the UK government, the Scottish Government didn’t conduct its important business via WhatsApp during the pandemic, thank-you-very-much.
It’s a bold move to piously claim you are better than rest while simultaneously trying to defend the indefensible.
Officials shouldn’t have been routinely deleting messages during the crisis.
As soon as they knew an inquiry was coming down the tracks, everything should have been saved.
Boris Johnson’s has been rightly criticised for his own lack of transparency over WhatsApp messages related to his pandemic decision-making.
But there seems to be a growing belief among some SNP supporters that the many lies and crimes of the former prime minister are a justifiable barrier to any criticism of the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic.
If we wouldn’t give the UK Government the benefit of the doubt over the mass-deletion of messages between officials then that grace shouldn’t be offered to the Scottish Government, either.
Not for politicians to judge relevance of messages
Maybe Scottish Government officials are telling the truth, and they didn’t ever discuss the Coronavirus response via WhatsApp or other messaging platforms.
That would have been really easy to prove if they had kept all their messages.
Instead they conducted themselves like a married middle-aged man trying to conceal an illicit affair.
Senior politicians, including Nicola Sturgeon, assured the public that all relevant materials would be retained.
But it shouldn’t have been for politicians to decide what was relevant or not.
The best the public can now hope for is an incomplete picture. And when you consider the collective trauma, loss and heartbreak experienced during the pandemic, that really isn’t good enough.