Conor Matchett: Care home scandal must get own inquiry

Transparency remains one of the Scottish Government’s Achilles heels and the latest revelation raises further questions around its handling of Covid-19.

Deaths in care homes were the biggest scandal of the pandemic
Deaths in care homes were the biggest scandal of the pandemic

In The Scotsman today, we detail how the Scottish Government with help from a minister – Fiona Hyslop – intervened at the last second in a process which could have seen detailed information about the scale of Covid-19 deaths in individual care homes made public as earlier as February.

As you will read, this intervention led directly to a u-turn from the NRS and a delay to its publication until late May, after the Holyrood election.

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While there is no suggestion this was a direct consideration of the NRS officials in question, the timing is worrisome and raises questions about ministerial and government interference in supposedly independent or non-ministerial agencies.

The failure to release this information prior to the election will be jumped on by opponents, but the real issue lies in the fact that there was no reason to keep it secret.

No justification around personal information, no public health justification, and no public interest justification.

It simply should have been published when first requested in September 2020.

Such a decision would have offered families of victims full closure and added desperately needed transparency on an issue which was at the top of the political agenda throughout the first wave of Covid-19.

Instead it took a decision from the Scottish Information Commissioner and an eight month delay to force the NRS’ hand.

The Scottish Government’s involvement, which was questionable at best, also raises the question of whether it is truly committed to transparency and again highlights the Scottish Government’s inability to naturally be open and honest to the electorate.

This isn’t a Scotland only problem, but this failure of openness on policy failures is endemic to the SNP.

These revelations today also reinforce the need for the shameful handling of care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic to be subject to a full, Scotland only public inquiry.

The victims of this pandemic deserve this as a minimum, but voters also deserve honesty from a government that too often chooses to actively fight against transparency.

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