The UK government has said that it ‘expects’ a four-nations inquiry to begin in spring next year, while the SNP, among others, have said it should start hearing evidence this year.
However, the SNP government seems to have quickly forgotten a manifesto pledge that “we will commission a statutory, person-centred and human rights-based public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland”. Instead, this will apparently only be considered if the UK inquiry does not begin within a year.
Nicola Sturgeon stressed there was “no reason for further delay” to the UK inquiry, while Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said families who had “lost loved ones to Covid… deserve answers immediately" as he called for the SNP to keep its word.
Politicians have a habit of viewing inquiries as a way to kick difficult questions into the long grass in the hope that the equally difficult answers will only emerge when they are no longer around to pay the price. Major inquiries into complex issues can take years.
However, there is a pressing need for the Covid inquiry, or inquiries, to move with greater pace that usual. If a new strain of Covid emerges that evades the protection provided by the vaccines or if another virus causes a new pandemic, we need to have learned the lessons of this devastating crisis and taken steps to strengthen our defences.
Perhaps Ross should direct his views on the urgency of the matter to Boris Johnson, while Sturgeon could have a word with herself.