Last month the SNP promised voters it would commission a public inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic “as soon as possible after the election”.
But there was confusion on Saturday when a spokesperson for Nicola Sturgeon’s administration directly contradicted health secretary Humza Yousaf’s claim that he had been given the go-ahead to appoint a chair for the probe.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Mr Yousaf said: “What we will do is have a full and frank public inquiry.
“I’m tasked, actually, to lead that as health secretary, in terms of getting the remit set up and making sure there is an appropriate chair and so on and so forth.”
The new health secretary insisted the inquiry would be a “cross-party” effort, adding: “The inquiry will look at, again with an independent chair, fully, freely and frankly, will be discharges into care homes.”
But hours later, a Scottish Government spokesman said the First Minister was yet to decide whether Scotland needed an inquiry at all, insisting she would first wait to see the terms of reference of a proposed UK-wide probe instead.
Reacting, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross warned Ms Sturgeon not to perform a “screeching U-turn” on its manifesto pledge.
He said: “There must be a separate Scottish inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic.
“All devolved decision-making must be held up to independent scrutiny, here in Scotland.
“The SNP promised that in their manifesto and the First Minister also committed to a judge-led inquiry in March.”
Mr Ross added: “A screeching U-turn now would fail Scots, break a key pledge just weeks after the election and deny the vote held in the Scottish Parliament.”
In its 2021 election manifesto, the SNP promised to “commission a statutory, person centred and human rights based public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland”.
The party continued: “We will begin to take the necessary steps to establish the public inquiry as soon as possible after the election.”