THE First Minister has promised a “robust defence” to Tory claims that he and Shona Robison misled Holyrood in a row over pandemic WhatsApp messages.

Humza Yousaf and the Deputy First Minister were accused of misleading MSPs by Douglas Ross during First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) last week.

Yousaf had initially said the UK Covid Inquiry requested messages to be handed over in September, but a timeline published by the Scottish Government later showed this was February.

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The FM conceded that officials had initially interpreted the request for electronic messages “too narrowly”.

The Scottish Tories have insisted that as MSPs were previously told the initial request was made in September, Yousaf and Robison had therefore misled Parliament.

Douglas Ross has put forward a motion, to be debated in Holyrood on Wednesday afternoon, calling for both Yousaf and Robison to refer themselves to the independent adviser, to determine if they have breached the ministerial code.

The code requires ministers to give “accurate and truthful information” to Parliament.

The National:

Speaking ahead of the debate, Yousaf said he would “listen to Parliament once it makes a decision” on the matter.

He told the PA news agency: “We will be very robust in that debate and, of course, neither the Deputy First Minister or I have misled Parliament.

“We have provided full context of the requests that have been made and, most importantly, what people care about, is have we handed over the material we had in our possession? The answer to that is absolutely, yes.”

The Scottish Government handed over 14,000 messages to the inquiry, including unredacted correspondence from the First Minister.

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Yousaf insisted this was in “very stark contrast” to the UK Government, which lost a court case over giving the inquiry access to messages.

The FM went on to accuse the Tories of raising the issue to “distract from the complete boorach, the chaos, that is engulfing their own party” at Westminster.

Yousaf suggested that if ministers referred themselves for a possible breach of the code “every time the opposition demanded it then the advisers would not have anything else to do, they would be busy with constant referrals”.

The National:

The SNP leader said: “I have lost count of how many times the opposition have demanded SNP ministers refer themselves.

“This is also just an attempt by the Conservatives to distract from the complete boorach, the chaos, that is engulfing their own party down in the UK Government.”

He added: “We will robustly defend our position in the debate this afternoon, let’s see what Parliament concludes.”