New chair of public inquiry into handling of Covid in Scotland appointed

A new judge has been appointed to chair the public inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland.

The appointment of Lord Brailsford, a senator of the College of Justice for Scotland, follows the resignation of Lady Poole for personal reasons earlier this month.

Four lawyers working on the inquiry also quit after Lady Poole.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney confirmed the replacement in a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

He said: “The Scottish Government wants the Scottish Covid-19 inquiry to be delivered at speed and to address the range of questions that people have – the bereaved, in particular, so that we can learn lessons and benefit from them as early as possible.

Lady Poole
Lady Poole resigned as chair of the Covid-19 inquiry earlier this month (PA)

“That is why arrangements for identifying a new judicial chair for the inquiry have been taken forward urgently to ensure a swift and successful transition.

“From my own and the First Minister’s interactions with Lord Brailsford, I am in no doubt that he has the necessary leadership skills, integrity and experience to continue the work of this inquiry.

“I am grateful to Lady Poole for the important work she has undertaken since the establishment of this inquiry. I thank Lady Poole for her work and wish her well.”

Families who had lost loved ones to the virus had previously told Mr Swinney they felt “betrayed” by the handling of the inquiry amid fears of delays.

Mr Swinney said it will now be for the new chair to determine how handover arrangements will work in practice.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane urged Mr Swinney to commit to no further delays and to ensure that long Covid is included in the inquiry.

His comments were echoed by Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, who said no further delays should occur.

Lord Brailsford said he is “honoured” to take up the role.

He said: “The pandemic impacted everyone across the country to some degree. There is barely a family, business or organisation that wasn’t affected in some way.

“This inquiry seeks to find out whether anything could or even should have been done differently and what lessons can be learned for the future.

“The public are rightly looking for answers and no more so than the loved ones of the nearly 16,000 people in Scotland who died during this pandemic.

“I am immensely aware of the enormous responsibility these places on me and the inquiry.

“I promise the families that, along with the inquiry team, I will work independently to establish the facts and ensure the inquiry thoroughly examines the decisions taken throughout the pandemic.”