HAS there ever been a deeper disconnect between those who’re paid to govern us and the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect?

Public service and duty used to mean something in the UK but the Post Office scandal and its multifaceted conspiracies have shattered our traditional sense of fairness, honesty and justice.

What’s now emerging from the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, sitting in Edinburgh last week, is equally devastating and has added to a deepening sense of malaise within our civic institutions.

The UK Covid-19 inquiry was announced by the then Prime Minister on 12 May 2021. We now know that the very next day senior Scottish civil servants were joking in a WhatsApp thread about the need to delete discussions related to the pandemic.

With a zipped emoticon face, one senior official said, “I feel moved at this point to remind you that this channel is FOI recoverable”. To which the national clinical director, Jason Leitch quipped, “WhatsApp deletion is a pre-bed ritual”.

Lest we forget, only last October our highly paid public officials falsely told journalists it was “not correct to suggest that the national clinical director deleted every WhatsApp message every day”.

He did and seemed proud of his bedtime deletion routine.

Why the deception and why the destruction of potentially relevant evidence when it was well known two public inquiries were going to be taking place?

Back in August 2021, the former First Minister (FM) was asked at a government press conference, “Can you guarantee to the bereaved families that you will disclose emails, WhatApps, private emails if you have been using them. That nothing will be off limits in this inquiry?”.

The former FM gave positive assurances that we now know had less substance than candy floss; the public was being fed disingenuous platitudes as evidence was being systematically deleted.

Indeed, the Scottish government introduced a social media policy that advocated the regular deletion of WhatsApp messages in November 2021. Why would any public official do such a thing when it was common knowledge we had two public inquiries into the pandemic?

Questions are now being reasonably asked about the destruction of evidence and how this sits with section 35 of the 2005 Inquiries Act.

Section 35 creates a number of criminal offences including a person is guilty of an offence if during the course of an inquiry he or she: “intentionally suppresses or conceals a document that is, and that he knows or believes to be, a relevant document, or intentionally alters or destroys any such document”.

For the purpose of section 35, a document is a “relevant document” if it is likely that the inquiry panel would, if aware of its existence, wish to be provided with it.

And that’s the nub of it. It was not for any public official or politician to tell us what evidence might be relevant or not. That was the job of the public inquiry and if potentially relevant discussions have been deleted how can it do that?

Thousands of elderly Scots died from the reckless practice of sending Covid-infected patients from hospitals into care homes. Will the Scottish Covid bereaved ever discover who was responsible for this disastrous policy and upon what basis it was implemented?