A public inquiry into the response to Covid-19 will be a priority for the SNP if they form the Government after the election, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Addressing MSPs in Holyrood on the anniversary of the first lockdown, the First Minister said that, after meeting with representatives of families bereaved through coronavirus, “establishing a statutory public inquiry will be a priority for this Government if we are returned at the election”.
She said the Scottish Government did not get everything right in its response to the pandemic and it is vital to reflect and learn lessons from this.
She paid tribute to the sacrifices made in the past year, saying one of her overwhelming emotions is “gratitude”, thanking all those who adhered to the restrictions.
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed some lockdown easing measures, including that the Western Isles will move to Level 3 from 6pm on Wednesday and collective worship with up to 50 people, socially distanced, will be permitted in Scotland from Friday.
She told MSPs: “A year ago today, we all felt scared and uncertain. We did not know exactly what lay ahead or how long it would last.
“But we knew we had to come together to save lives, and I will never be able to adequately express the depth of my gratitude for all the sacrifices that have been made by so many.
“Today, I want to reflect on the anxiety, isolation, loss and grief that have marked the last 12 months, but I also want to acknowledge the compassion, solidarity and love that has brought hope and light to these darkest of times.”
She paid tribute to the “dedication, expertise and compassion” of health and care workers and also praised the work of the police, local authority staff, teachers and businesses.
Young people have been “truly magnificent” throughout the pandemic, Ms Sturgeon added as she thanked them for how they have handled restrictions in the past year.
The First Minister said no Scot should be happy to return to the inequalities in place before Covid-19, adding: “Inequality has massively affected people’s quality of life during lockdown – and deprivation has significantly increased people’s chances of getting Covid, and of dying from Covid.”
The pandemic has reminded us “human beings can achieve incredible things”, she added.
“Scientists across the globe have developed vaccines at record speeds.
“Testing infrastructures have been established from scratch. People have changed their behaviour at a moment’s notice, to protect and care for each other.
“The conditions the next Scottish Parliament faces will – I hope – be nothing like the ones we have encountered in the last year.
“But that parliament will have an even greater responsibility to tackle inequality, support economic recovery, and achieve a just transition to a net-zero society.
“If we can summon some of the urgency, resolve and solidarity we have shown in the face of the virus – and bring it to bear in tackling those issues and others – then we can ensure that we do not simply return to normal. We can create a better and fairer normality for the future.”
She announced that Scotland has recorded seven deaths of coronavirus patients in the past 24 hours.
There were 495 new cases in the same period with a daily test positivity rate of 3.6%, down slightly from 3.7% on Monday.
The death toll under the measure used for the daily figures – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 7,559, while the National Records of Scotland figure, which records all deaths where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate, is “almost 10,000” Ms Sturgeon confirmed.
She said 341 people in hospital are confirmed to have the virus – down 12 in 24 hours – and of these, 28 patients are in intensive care, down five.
A total of 2,214,672 people received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination as of 7.30am on Tuesday and 235,671 have received their second dose.