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Scotland Will Start Holding Its Own Public Covid Inquiry This Year

Scottish deputy first minister John Swinney announced the country's own independent public inquiry into Covid will start this year (Alamy)

3 min read

The Scottish government has announced it will hold its own inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic starting by the end of this year.

A statement released this morning is inviting views “on the draft aims and principles of an independent public inquiry” for a paper intended to shape its terms of reference.

They are calling for input from various stakeholders, including bereaved families, and say the “proposed inquiry would be established by the end of the year, to scrutinise decisions taken in the course of this pandemic, and learn lessons for future pandemics”.

Boris Johnson announced earlier this year there would be a UK-wide independent public inquiry into his government's handling of the pandemic, telling MPs it would examine the decisions "in the cold light of day" and "identify the key issues that will make a difference for the future”.

The Prime Minister said he intended to wait until Spring 2022 to launch it, but has come under immense pressure to bring it forward. He has claimed he does not want to put additional stress this winter on the NHS and others who would be called to give evidence.

Announcing the Scottish government’s intention to get their own review started ahead of the four-nations one, deputy first minister John Swinney 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.”

Swinney, who is also the Covid recovery secretary at Holyrood, added: “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.”

Solicitor Aamer Anwar, who is representing 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.”

He said 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," he added. 

“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.”

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