Prime Minister Boris Johnson is at the centre of a political storm over allegations he made “utterly abhorrent” comments about another coronavirus lockdown.
Downing Street strenuously denied the claims attributed to him about being prepared to let “bodies pile high” instead of ordering another round of full restrictions.
However, Scottish political leaders said the allegations add to wider accusations of sleaze, special access and tax break offers.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP said: “These comments are utterly abhorrent. If they are true, Boris Johnson has a duty to resign.
“The Prime Minister must now come to Parliament to give a statement, and face questioning on these shocking claims and the growing Tory sleaze scandal engulfing Westminster.
“The public have a right to know what is going on, and why the Tory government has been handing out multimillion-pound contracts, special access, tax breaks and peerages to Tory donors and friends.
“The difficulty for Boris Johnson is, he has lied so many times it’s impossible for anyone to trust a word he says. A full, independent public inquiry is the only way to provide transparency and accountability. Those responsible must be held to account.”
Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar said: “This reported comment is repugnant and deeply distressing.
“More than 10,000 families in Scotland and 130,000 families across the UK are grieving the loss of a loved one.
“These alleged remarks have rightly been condemned by politicians from all parties, and I hope the Prime Minister reflects and apologises.”
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said it was “not true” to suggest Mr Johnson made the comments, while UK Government health minister Nadine Dorries said it was an “outright lie”.
Mr Wallace told Sky News: “We are getting into the sort of comedy chapter now of these gossip stories – unnamed sources, by unnamed advisers talking about unnamed events.
“None of this is serious. The Prime Minister has been utterly focused on delivering, alongside Cabinet colleagues, the response to Covid.”
Ms Dorries said it was “mendacious, vexatious, co-ordinated gossip” aimed at destabilising the Tory campaign ahead of the May 6 elections.
The remarks were reportedly made after the Prime Minister agreed to a second lockdown, and suggest Mr Johnson was prepared to face a mounting death toll rather than order a third set of tough restrictions, something he was eventually forced to do.
The decision on the second lockdown last autumn was leaked and is the subject of an inquiry to find the so-called “chatty rat” who tipped off the press.
The UK’s most senior civil servant is expected to indicate he has not cleared Mr Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings over that leak, despite the ex-aide’s claims to the contrary.
Mr Cummings is widely known to have been critical of Mr Johnson’s delay in launching a second lockdown in England when cases began rising last autumn, and there is speculation he will seek to blame him for the high death toll.
The Daily Mail carried the claim that, following the lockdown, the Prime Minister said he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a third one.
The paper did not give a source for the allegation, but ministers hit out at “gossip” spread by “unnamed advisers”.
‘So much of the misery could have been avoided’
Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, said: “The latest comments attributed to Boris Johnson are heartless and disgraceful.
“If true, they show a callous disregard for families all across the UK who have lost loved ones and underline that Johnson is unfit to be Prime Minister.
“But these accusations should not be seen in isolation. The way in which Downing Street handled the pandemic was wrong from the start, and saw one of the worst death rates in the world.
“So much of the misery could have been avoided if they had followed WHO advice on testing, closed the borders and implemented a functional test, trace and isolate system, instead of gumming up the works of public procurement and risking supplies of vital PPE and equipment by creating a VIP lane for their pals and donors.”
Meanwhile, Labour is focusing on another of Mr Cummings’ allegations as it attempts to force ministers to explain how Boris Johnson paid for the lavish refurbishment of his official Downing Street flat.
The opposition party was preparing to ask Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to grant an urgent question requiring a minister to come to the House to respond to the charge that Mr Johnson plotted for Tory donors to secretly fund the work.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said there was a “real stench” around the Government and she called for the Electoral Commission, which polices the party funding rules, to launch a full inquiry.
The commission, which first raised the issue with the Conservative Party more than a month ago, confirmed at the weekend it was still looking into whether any of the sums relating to the work on the flat should have been declared.
Mr Wallace said the Prime Minister paid for the renovations “out of his own pocket”.
“The Prime Minister has complied at all stages with the rules and we’ve been very clear on that,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
“We have engaged with the Electoral Commission and we will continue to engage with that.”
Mr Case, meanwhile, is likely to face questions during his appearance before the PACAC, about another issue where Labour is hoping to make ground, what it describes as Tory “sleaze”, David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital.
MPs are expected to press him on the extent of the former prime minister’s activities on behalf of the failed finance company, following the disclosure that he used his contacts to directly approach Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the deputy governor of the Bank of England.
Earlier this month Mr Case ordered all senior civil servants to declare whether they had outside jobs, after it emerged that the former head of government procurement had taken a position with Greensill while still working in Whitehall.