Demand for Holyrood inquiry on Covid-19 handling after damning MP report

Holyrood should hold its own parliamentary inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of Covid-19, Scottish Labour has said.

The call comes after the publication of a report by Westminster MPs labelled the UK Government’s early response to the pandemic “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”.

The report, from the cross-party joint committee of the health and social care and science and technology committees, concluded that there was an element of “groupthink” around the UK Government’s approach to herd immunity.

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It also criticised the “gradual and incremental approach” to public health measures such as social distancing, self-isolation, and lockdowns, labelling it a “deliberate policy” that was “wrong” and led to more deaths.

Scottish Labour have called for a Holyrood inquiry into Covid-19

Many of the early policies to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic were replicated by the Scottish Government, with Scotland entering full lockdown on the same day as the rest of the UK on March 23, 2020.

The report has led to repeated calls from Scottish Labour for a Holyrood inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic to run alongside the planned public inquiry.

The party also called for an apology from the First Minister for the “catastrophic errors”.

Jackie Baillie, the party’s health and Covid-19 recovery spokesperson, said Nicola Sturgeon “ignored” the same warnings as Boris Johnson, leading to the “same tragic outcome”.

She said: “At crucial points in the pandemic the UK and Scottish Governments were in lockstep – acting too slowly in response to the danger and failing to warn the public of the risk.

“But while England will benefit from the findings of this robust and detailed report, Scotland has been denied early findings of its own.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s own MPs helped deliver this analysis at Westminster while in Scotland they dither and delay on making sure her decisions are put under the microscope. Scotland deserves better.”

Ian Murray, the party’s only Scottish MP, said the Westminster report was “devastating” and showed “catastrophic failures” which “cost thousands of lives”.

He said: “Lessons must be learned both in England and here in Scotland, where the SNP made identical fatal errors.

“Westminster’s committee system is robust in holding the UK Government to account, and there now needs to be a similar forensic approach taken in Scotland, including a rapid public inquiry.

“The people of Scotland deserve an apology from the First Minister for the cover-ups and the catastrophic errors made.”

Plans for a full public inquiry held in Scotland are underway with a consultation on the suggested approach to a Covid-19 inquiry launching in late August and closing at the end of September.

The inquiry is set to be established fully by the end of the calendar year.

In the wide-ranging report, MPs said the UK’s pandemic planning was too “narrowly and inflexibly based on a flu model” that failed to learn the lessons from Sars, Mers and Ebola.

Former chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies told MPs there was “groupthink”, with infectious disease experts not believing that “Sars, or another Sars, would get from Asia to us”.

The UK’s national risk register, which was in place at the start of the pandemic, said “the likelihood of an emerging infectious disease spreading within the UK is assessed to be lower than that of a pandemic flu”. It also said only up to 100 people may die during any outbreak of an emerging infectious disease.

MPs said that thousands of elderly people died in care homes during the first wave of the pandemic, something that showed “social care had a less prominent voice in Government during the early stages of the pandemic than did the NHS”.

The decision not to test people discharged from hospitals to care homes early on was a failure and led to deaths, they added.

The Scottish Government has regularly rejected the suggestion that discharges of untested patients who previously had tested positive for Covid-19 into care homes led to outbreaks.

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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