Covid Scotland: Scotland's Covid-19 inquiry officially established with chair confirmed

Deaths in care homes, testing, and the decision making behind lockdown restrictions will all be examined as part of Scotland’s Covid-19 inquiry, the deputy first minister has confirmed.

Announcing the official establishment of the inquiry – which will run separately to the wider four nations inquiry into the pandemic committed to by the UK GovernmentJohn Swinney also confirmed the inquiry will be lead by a judge.

Lady Poole, a senator of the College of Justice, will lead the inquiry which will the period between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2022, with the exception of the topic of pandemic planning.

Mr Swinney said the inquiry will work at speed and may see the publication of “interim” conclusions to avoid a situation where bereaved families wait years for answers.

The Scottish Government has updated Holyrood on the Covid-19 inquiry

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The deputy first minister confirmed the inquiry would cover 12 separate areas of the pandemic.

These include pandemic planning and exercises undertaken by the Scottish Government, the decision to lockdown and the application of other restrictions, and the delivery of the testing, outbreak management and self-isolation systems.

It will also look at the vaccination programme, PPE supply and distribution, the shielding programme, welfare programmes throughout the pandemic, and the provision of healthcare services.

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Care home deaths and the treatment of care home residents will also be scrutinised by the inquiry, alongside the delivery of life care and use of do not resuscitate orders.

The exams scandals of both 2020 and 2021 and the often criticised level of financial assistance to businesses and self-employed individuals are also sections of the inquiry’s work.

The terms of reference of the inquiry may change, Mr Swinney said, should Lady Poole wish to make changes that may take into account the remit of the UK-wide public inquiry.

He said: “We remain committed to working with the UK Government to develop the approach to the UK-wide inquiry and expect the chair of the Scottish public inquiry to coordinate with the chair of the UK-wide inquiry.

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“I am left with no doubt that Lady Poole is highly qualified for the demanding task put in front of her. I believe she will bring pace and energy to the work of the inquiry, as well as a cool, calm head, and that she will approach experiences of the pandemic sensitively and sympathetically.

“I am satisfied that Lady Poole possesses the leadership skills, integrity, and deep technical knowledge to undertake this inquiry.”

Commenting, Lady Poole labelled the death toll from Covid-19 a “tragedy”, and said the inquiry would be “open and transparent”.

She said: “The inquiry will work independently to establish the facts in an open and transparent way in order to determine what lessons can be learned for the future. There is a great deal to be done in a short space of time.

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"I will continue to give considerable thought as to how best to conduct the inquiry to ensure it fully achieves its aims, including a careful and thorough examination of the terms of reference.

“It is too early to be any more specific about how the inquiry will carry out its functions, other than to say that the arrangements for providing both written and oral evidence will be set out in due course once the initial establishment phase is completed.”

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