A total of 592 people in North Ayrshire sadly lost their lives to Covid-19 between 2020 and 2023.

The pandemic was a scarring period in our history. Those who lost loved ones will never forget it.

We have all shared memories of the rules, the lockdowns, the guidance and press conferences.

So many sacrifices were made: people went without seeing family for months, some missed the births of children and tragically too many were unable to be with a loved one in their final moments.

One of the things that got us through the pandemic was the feeling that we were all in it together.

Revelations relating to lockdown parties in Downing Street have since told how untrue that notion was. And those shocking discoveries made clear to me the importance of public investigations into the handling of the pandemic.

And I welcomed the UK and Scottish Covid Inquiries being established to help families seek the truth about how decisions were made during the pandemic and why.

I have found it insulting, therefore, that the Scottish Government resisted handing over data to the UK inquiry.

Despite being asked, it was reported that 70 politicians and officials had resisted initial attempts to see Whatsapp data shared. That included the former First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Jason Leitch, Scotland’s National Clinical Director. 

The inquiry needed to see those communications in order to aid its investigations and reach proper conclusions about decision-making.

In the end, the Scottish Government confirmed it would hand over 14,000 items of Whatsapp correspondence, but it is not clear how many of them relate to individual persons.

And, of course, what it does not include is data that has already been deleted. At time of writing, Nicola Sturgeon has refused to answer FOUR TIMES whether she personally deleted whatsapp messages from her phone.

Readers will come to their own conclusions. But reports that many messages may have been permanently deleted raise many questions.

Why were they deleted?

What messages were kept and what was deleted?

And what do people have to hide?

If messages have been deleted, that is an absolute scandal and an affront to transparency. It requires investigation, and a serious explanation from those implicated.

These inquiries are a chance to shed light on a dark period in our history.

As part of this inquiry, we have been told Boris Johnson thought the pandemic was “nature’s way of dealing with old people”.

When 118 of North Ayrshire’s Covid deaths were in care homes, I know how sickening that statement will be to people.

But it explains why transparency about the pandemic is so important.

Those families who lost a loved one deserve to know what the Prime Minister, UK and Scottish Ministers and other officials were thinking during that time. They deserve honesty and justice.

We can’t undo any damage that was done by failings during the pandemic by our leaders, but we should be able to hold them accountable for it.

Going forward, there can be no more attempts at secrecy from either of Scotland’s governments. I am glad the Scottish Government has now provided evidence, but it should be working to ensure every piece of possible information follows suit.

Too often in recent months, this Scottish government has been covered in scandal. This issue is simply too serious for any more of that to be tolerated.

The inquiries are an opportunity to learn lessons, get answers and accountability. Scotland’s governments must not stand in the way of that.