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COVID inquiry: Nicola Sturgeon to face interrogation after WhatsApp messages deleted

The anticipation is palpable as Nicola Sturgeon arrives for what could be her biggest interrogation yet.

Her leadership in the pandemic will be probed on a forensic level during a marathon evidence session. It is unlikely to be an easy ride.

It could be uncomfortable and awkward amid a COVID inquiry engulfed by the curious case of the former first minister's missing messages.

Ms Sturgeon's mass deletion of her WhatsApps comes after her "assurance" in a live TV briefing that nothing would be off limits to the inquiry.

The disappearance of her original messages may or may not be significant. We will never know.

It certainly could be argued that it undermines her position of being completely open in a time of the biggest crisis this country has faced in decades.

Amid scathing criticism from the bereaved in recent weeks, Ms Sturgeon issued a statement insisting the inquiry had copies of some exchanges.

We now know those are likely to be the same WhatsApps handed over by her former chief of staff Liz Lloyd. No informal messages exist for the months covering the first lockdown in 2020.

Sturgeon insists government business not routinely conducted over text

Ms Sturgeon insists she did not routinely conduct government business over text messages.

The question is whether the word "routinely" is doing a lot of heavy lifting given exchanges reveal her agreeing to a "good old fashioned rammy" with the UK government over furlough "to think about something other than sick people".

Other messages show discussions over tweaking the numbers allowed to attend funerals.

The wiping of WhatsApps has been defended under the cloak of following the government's security policy.

The problem is some officials, including Ms Sturgeon's chief advisor Ms Lloyd, say they were not aware such a policy existed. It seems there has been a patchwork of the policy being applied.

Some will say the vanishing of data is tantamount to destruction of evidence and the protection of personal reputation over transparency.

The COVID bereaved have said they will wait until the conclusion of today's showdown before considering a criminal complaint to Police Scotland. Today carries significant implications and expectations.