Scotland’s Covid-19 inquiry to begin

The Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry will begin on Tuesday, as a leading lawyer called for witnesses to speak with “absolute candour” in order to learn “vital lessons”.

It will investigate the response by the Scottish Government to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first phase of hearings will look at the health and social care impacts of the pandemic while later phases will look at education and young people, business and financial and welfare support.

The inquiry, which has so far cost almost £9 million, has been subject to delays, including the resignation of former chair Lady Poole.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Aamer Anwar (centre), lead solicitor for the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, urged witnesses to speak with ‘absolute candour’ (Belinda Jiao/PA)

This week the inquiry will hear opening statements from core participants as well as affected organisations, such as Scottish Covid Bereaved and Care Homes Relatives Scotland.

Inquiry chair Lord Brailsford promised a “robust investigation” into the impact of the virus and called it “the most severe health crisis in living memory.”

Acting on behalf of the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, lawyer Aamer Anwar said the group welcomed the “long-awaited” start of the inquiry.

He said: “The Scottish Covid Bereaved welcome the long-awaited start of the Scottish inquiry.

“We ask that all the witnesses who appear at the inquiry speak with absolute candour and are brutally honest, as without that honesty we will never learn the vital lessons to ensure that when the next inevitable pandemic comes, we are able to save thousands of lives and avoid the unnecessary suffering endured by so many in the Covid-19 pandemic.

“According to the National Records of Scotland, as of June 4 2023, there were 17,646 deaths in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

“Each of those deaths not only represents an individual tragedy, but has affected the friends and family, the loved ones, of each of those who died.

“No person, no institution, no matter how powerful, whether it be in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, Westminster or Holyrood, can obstruct this search for the truth.”

Lord Brailsford told the inquiry in August: “I will conduct a robust investigation without fear or favour that will arrive at the facts, identify any lessons that need to be learned and make recommendations for Scottish ministers so that we are better prepared in the event of any future pandemic.

“I will not take sides and I will act with fairness towards all parties involved in the inquiry process.”

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) will be among those giving evidence on Tuesday.

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer described Covid-19 as “the most impactful occupational health hazard our country has seen for generations”.

She said: “This inquiry must start with a deep tribute to every single worker and their families for their sacrifice during the pandemic.

“In their name we seek to give them a voice and access to justice.

“Our testimony – shocking, personal and the words of the workers themselves – sets out how abandoned workers felt during the pandemic and the unbelievable strain felt by them and their families.”