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June 20, 2024
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Humza Yousaf ‘urgently’ looking for missing gold command Covid minutes

But no minutes of the meetings detailing discussions and decisions have been shared with the UK Covid Inquiry.

During their evidence at the UK Covid Inquiry this week, Mr Yousaf, along with his predecessor and then-finance secretary Kate Forbes all suggested that the meetings should have been recorded.

Read more: Humza Yousaf facing demand for probe into Gold Command Covid meetings

Ms Forbes, who was not invited to attend the meetings until more than a year into the pandemic, told the inquiry she was “surprised” the meetings weren’t minuted, adding that “every meeting of that nature in the Scottish Government should be minuted”.

Mr Yousaf also admitted that the gold command meetings “should have been minuted”.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Scottish LibDems leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, accused Mr Yousaf of “standing in the way” of details of the key meetings being published.

He labelled the ‘gold command’ meetings the “secret central committee” about which “the Finance Secretary knew nothing of and of which there are no minutes”.

Mr Cole-Hamilton described it as “a government within a government”.

He added: “Humza Yousaf saw all of this and yet, did nothing.

Read more: Kate Forbes not told about existence of Gold Command

“So why is he now standing in the way of a ministerial code investigation into gold command record keeping – something only he can instruct?”

In response, the First Minister confirmed that “the government is urgently examining and exploring and will hand over to the inquiry any notes that we have on gold command minutes”.

Mr Yousaf was also pressed about a suggestion that Scottish Government officials were guided on whether or not to open up travel to Spain during a key moment of the pandemic due to political worries the Spanish government would never let an independent Scotland join the EU.

An email disclosed at the UK Covid-19 inquiry showed there was concern among figures in the Scottish Government that the Spanish government would block entry to the EU were the country to become independent.

The message, shown to the inquiry during Ms Sturgeon’s evidence, appears to have been sent from the email address of then-deputy first minister John Swinney, but was signed off by someone named Scott.

Read more: Civil servant said Spain may block EU entry if travel not allowed

The Scottish Government later clarified that the sender was a civil servant and was not communicating on behalf of Mr Swinney or his team.

It suggested that if the Scottish Government did not allow travel between Scotland and Spain during the summer of 2020, Spain could veto a future independent Scotland’s membership of the EU.

The email, sent in July 2020, stated: “I’m extremely concerned about this. Spain is now being held to a much higher level of scrutiny and performance than other countries.

“There is visible action from the Spanish authorities to do whatever it takes to suppress outbreaks (compare and contrast with outbreaks in England).

“It won’t matter how much ministers might justify it on health grounds, the Spanish government will conclude it is entirely political; they won’t forget; there is a real possibility they will never approve EU membership for an independent Scotland as a result.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross asked the FM: “Why was independence even considered in a decision about public health?”

The First Minister told MSPs that “to suggest the decision around Spain was made for any other reason than epidemiology” was “an absolute fantasy”.

He added: “Even if we accept Douglas Ross’s framing of the situation that we were looking at this through a constitutional lens and attempting to curry favour with Spain, then surely we would have put them on the exempt list.

“Spain was the only country at that point proposed for the exempt list that had significantly higher prevalence than Scotland did at the time.

“Ministers concluded that they should not add Spain to the list.”

But Mr Ross stressed that the day after Mr Yousaf received the email of concern about the political implications of adding Spain to the exempt list, “he (Mr Yousaf) stood up and announced a travel corridor with Spain”.

He added: “The very next day, they opened up travel to Spain and five days later they had to close it down again because Covid cases were rocketing.

“It’s back and white in evidence to the inquiry that they were thinking about independence instead of focusing purely on public health.”

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