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Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry criticised as ‘shambolic’ before it begins

The Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry has been branded “shambolic” ahead of its first preliminary hearing.

Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, lead solicitor on behalf of Scottish Covid Bereaved, a group of grieving families, was critical of efforts to match the Scottish Inquiry with its UK equivalent.

The Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry will hold its first preliminary hearing on Monday  at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, when chairman Lord Brailsford will set out how he intends to run future substantive hearings.

In late October it will focus on the response to the pandemic and the impact on Scots, initially looking at health and social care.

In the coming months it will examine the impact on education and young people, and business, finance, and welfare.

Nearly 200 attendees are confirmed for the preliminary hearing at Murrayfield, from 37 different core participant groups.

Scottish Covid-19 public inquiry
Memorial to Robert Dorrian who died from Covid during a press conference by the Scottish members of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice (Andrew Milligan/PA)

However, there were concerns the Scottish Inquiry would not match the “fearless” UK equivalent.

Mr Anwar said: “On Monday it is anticipated that unless the Covid Bereaved hear of real change, they will be damning in their criticism of the Scottish Inquiry.

“In the last year this inquiry has spent nearly £8 million- so the very least the families were entitled to expect was a gold plated and fearless inquiry, no different to the UK Inquiry.

“Sadly their experience has been the exact opposite, one of a shambolic, embarrassing and third rate inquiry.

“The families we represent were promised firstly by the Scottish Government, then the first chair who resigned, followed by Lord Brailsford, that they would be front and centre of a robust and independent public inquiry.

“Shamefully that has not happened.”

The Inquiry is an attempt to “arrive at the facts, identify any lessons that need be learned and make recommendations to Scottish Ministers as soon as is practicable so we are better prepared in the event of any future pandemic”.

It is separate from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) investigation into deaths in care homes and nursing homes.

The Inquiry also issued “do not destroy” letters to organisations and individuals relevant to investigations, urging WhatsApp, text messages and emails to be retained to provide evidence.

Lord Brailsford, chairman of the Inquiry said last month in a report on STV News: “On August 28 we will have a further hearing… and the focus will then shift from the science to the people affected by the virus and the strategic response to the virus.

“On those days, we will hold we consider to be our official preliminary hearing and that will constitute a formal opening to the Inquiry’s evidence gathering and hearings to follow, which I think again as you all know will commence late in October.

“At that stage in August, there will be an opportunity for core participants to the Inquiry including of course bereaved families, care home relatives, and others affected to participate.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are co-operating fully with the Scottish and UK Covid public inquiries, and where requested have provided material held.

“We will continue to do so wherever possible, to provide the inquiry with any documentation or communications.”