The Scottish government will hold its own public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by the end of the year, after pressure from relatives who lost loved ones to the virus.
The announcement came after the deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for Covid recovery, John Swinney, met representatives of the Scottish branch of the campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice.
In April, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said she wanted a judge-led public inquiry into how Covid was handled to begin before the end of this year, telling BBC Scotland her preference was for an inquiry to be established on a UK-wide basis and take account of devolved decision-making, but adding she was prepared to go it alone.
In May, Boris Johnson committed to holding an independent public inquiry in spring 2022.
Sturgeon and former health minister Jeane Freeman have accepted that the way elderly people were discharged from hospital and into care homes in the early stages of the pandemic was a mistake.
Aamer Anwar, the solicitor representing the families, said: “Grieving Scottish families are unwilling to be subjected to unnecessary delays at the hands of the UK government, when it is within the power of the Scottish government to act now and order a Scottish public inquiry.
“Decisions were made in Scotland, health and social care is of course devolved to Scotland, and those who made decisions in Scotland must be held to account. The families would expect all the inquiries to cooperate and share information to assist in the pursuit of the truth.”
Swinney said: “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.
“We will continue to listen to those affected by Covid-19, including bereaved families, on what they wish the public inquiry to focus on. Their feedback will be fundamental in reviewing the suggested approach set out here, and setting the terms of reference for an independent Scottish inquiry.
“Discussions are also ongoing with the UK government on the planned four nations inquiry, to ensure all areas that need to be considered are covered in a way that gives confidence to bereaved families and others.”