Partygate was ‘ultimate insult’ to Covid bereaved, inquiry told

A woman who lost her partner to Covid has hit out at UK Government officials who held illegal lockdown parties, saying there was a “culture of contempt for the ordinary people” throughout the pandemic.

Jane Morrison, of Scottish Covid Bereaved, told the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry on Friday of the hardship she faced after her partner, Jacky Morrison-Hart, died in 2020.

Ms Morrison-Hart, 49, had been admitted to hospital for a separate illness but contracted Covid-19 while at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.

After battling the disease, she died a short time later in October 2020.

Speaking to the inquiry panel, Ms Morrison said there was “contempt” for normal citizens as UK Government officials illegally held lavish parties despite lockdown restrictions meant to prevent anyone from doing so.

She said the partygate revelations were the “ultimate insult”.

Ms Morrison said: “It seems it doesn’t matter if the plans in place are the best in the world or not.

“If the political comprehension of the coming storm is lacking, and it’s partly driven by pandering – this was directed for the UK side to the loudest MPs in government – irrespective of the science, rather than doing what’s in the best interest of the people, then more people die than would otherwise be the case.

“Many times during the pandemic there was a culture of contempt for the ordinary people.

“As I’ve said before, hubris does not stop a pandemic.

“I think this attitude has been confirmed by the investigation into the so-called partygate scandal.”

Jane Morrison
Jane Morrison, centre, addressed the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry on behalf of the Scottish Covid Bereaved group (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Morrison has previously spoken of the restrictions on funerals during the pandemic.

On Friday she told how she had to wait seven months following the death of her wife to share a hug with a friend or family member.

She told the inquiry it was “wrong” for lockdown restrictions to prevent mourners from embracing at funerals.

She went on to speak of Covid-deniers and conspiracy theorists who she believed began to gain “more ground” and became more “vocal”.

However, she maintained: “I think the ultimate insult came when all of the so-called partygate stories came out and people became so angry.

“They felt they’d been treated with absolute contempt and they felt they’d been taken for a ride and treated as mugs.

“That produced so much anger, it’s difficult to find the words to adequately display all of those factors. All of those factors contribute in my view.”

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
(from left) Natasha Hamilton, Alison Leitch, Cathie Russell and Sheila Hall, from Care Home Relatives Scotland, arrive to give evidence at the inquiry (Andrew Milligan/PA)

In the afternoon, Cathie Russell, Alison Leitch, Sheila Hall and Natasha Hamilton, of Care Home Relatives Scotland (CHRS), gave evidence.

The group said they repeatedly tried to arrange a meeting with then-first minister Nicola Sturgeon to discuss lockdown rules within care homes, but were never given the opportunity.

Asked what their reaction to this was, Ms Leitch said: “I think we were very disappointed.

“The first minister seemed to meet, or send messages out to certain demographics.

“There was a message to children that Santa was still a key worker, she met with the group that gave evidence this morning, there was the message to students telling them to go home one year. I always felt that our residents were just not on their radar.

“This was reinforced by care home residents never being included in the daily briefings or when there was updates for the general public.

“Care home residents were never mentioned in this. We would raise it time and time again and we raised it at a meeting with Kevin Stewart MSP when he came into post.

“It was quite a fraught meeting that one – and at the next update, care home residents were mentioned in with the general public for the first time.”

Concluding their evidence, Ms Leitch read out a CHRS statement, criticising the Scottish Government for its care home rules throughout the pandemic.

She said: “The Scottish Government failed to provide clear direction to care homes and failed to insist the guidance was adopted and followed.

“This was despite the fact they laid down the rules in every other sector of society.

“They claimed they had no levers to do this in care homes, but this could have been achieved by amending the care standards much earlier or explaining that payment of fees or personal care allowances which go direct to homes would depend on them implementing the Scottish guidance.

“The government failed to ensure that care home residents benefited from the route out of lockdown.

“Instead they had no access to services such as opticians, podiatry, hairdressing for more than a year, and they were unable to get out for fresh air.”

The inquiry, taking place before Lord Brailsford in Edinburgh, continues.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Every death during the pandemic is a tragedy and our thoughts and condolences are with all those who have lost a loved one.

“Our priority throughout the pandemic has been to save lives and we have sought to take the best decisions, based on the best scientific and clinical evidence that we have had at any given time, to keep people living and working in our care homes as safe as possible.

“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 in the most transparent fashion possible.”