UK and Scotland Covid inquiries work together to avoid doubling workload

Covid inquiries for the UK and Scotland will work alongside each other to avoid any duplication of evidence gathering and reporting results, it has been confirmed.

Lord Brailsford, chairman of the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry, and Baroness Heather Hallett, chairwoman of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, published an agreement on Thursday which sets out how they will work together.

The memorandum of understanding mentions how each inquiry will carry out its investigations in Scotland, minimise duplication of work through information sharing, and maximise value for money.

It also says both inquiries, which will meet at least monthly, will commit to providing clear information to the public about how each will be carried out.

Baroness Hallett said: “The publication of the memorandum of understanding is an important first step in underlining our commitment to work together and providing clarity for people in Scotland on how each inquiry is fulfilling its terms of reference in relation to Scottish matters.”

Lord Brailsford said: “This agreement reflects an understanding between both inquiries as to how we will seek to avoid duplication and enhance public understanding of each other’s work, including our parallel public engagement exercises.

“By working together, we aim to ensure no issues fall through gaps and that we share information and plans, for the benefit of the people of Scotland.”

At the time of his appointment in October, Lord Brailsford said: “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 this places on me and the inquiry.

Lord Brailsford
Lord Brailsford (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“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.”

Deputy first minister John Swinney said at the time: “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.

“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.”

The UK Covid-19 Inquiry officially opened last June, the team said, but it plans to hold evidence hearings from June next year for the first investigation, which is into the UK’s “pandemic preparedness and resilience”.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Covid-19 inquiry said work is still under way to obtain evidence, set up premises and make a plan for hearings.

As of Sunday, there had been 16,834 deaths registered in Scotland where the coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.

The latest weekly figures from the UK Government show 216,231 deaths in the UK as a whole since the start of the pandemic where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate.