COVID-19: Scottish government plans public inquiry into pandemic handling by end of year

The Scottish government says it will hold an independent public inquiry into how it has handled the COVID pandemic by the end of the year following pressure from bereaved families.

The government has said the inquiry will be established by the end of the year to “scrutinise decisions taken in the course of this pandemic, and learn lessons for future pandemics”.

People in Scotland have until the end of September to email the government about what they think the aims and principles of the inquiry should be.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s government had promised to take the “necessary steps” to establish a public inquiry within its first 100 days in office after the families of those who died with COVID-19 called for one.

Discussions are underway to identify and appoint a judge to chair the inquiry.

John Swinney, Scotland’s deputy first minister and COVID recovery secretary, said: “Since the early stages of our pandemic response we have been committed to a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic in Scotland, to ensure that lessons are learned for the future.

“The publication of this aims and principles paper, as one of our 100 days commitments, is an important step towards the establishment of that inquiry.

“We will continue to listen to those affected by COVID-19, including bereaved families, on what they wish the public inquiry to focus on. Their feedback will be fundamental in reviewing the suggested approach set out here, and setting the terms of reference for an independent Scottish inquiry.

“Discussions are also ongoing with the UK Government on the planned four nations inquiry, to ensure all areas that need to be considered are covered in a way that gives confidence to bereaved families and others.”

As Scotland experienced its largest ever daily number of COVID cases, Nicola Sturgeon said the inquiry “will take a person-centred, human rights approach”.

She said the inquiry will look into “all matters” including how the situation in care homes was handled.

The first minister said she will be talking to the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish governments about the likely terms of a UK-wide inquiry.

“It will be important to avoid duplication and overlap but co-operation with other governments is no reason to delay an inquiry,” she added.

“This inquiry has an important role to play in scrutinising decisions we took, and continue to take, and to identify lessons for the future.”

A lawyer representing members of the Scottish branch of the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group said: “The families are grateful that the Scottish government has listened to their demands and an independent Scottish public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths and the subsequent handling of the COVID pandemic will now take place.

“Today is the first important step in establishing accountability for 10,421 lives lost to COVID-19 in Scotland.

“Boris Johnson should take note that his government can no longer be allowed to hold the process back from asking difficult questions.

“There were 154,811 COVID-19 deaths in the UK, every single death represents failure and public inquiries cannot be delayed any longer by a UK government, whether it be in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.”

He added that the Scottish inquiry must be “truly independent and leave no stone unturned” and the families of those who have died “must be at the heart of the inquiry process to get to the truth of what happened”.

The public can email [email protected] with their ideas.

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