Covid inquiry should be held, but not rushed - Scotsman comment

As the current Holyrood election campaign got underway, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP’s focus would be on the need for strong leadership to get through the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Sturgeon’s remarks chimed with a narrative that has developed over the past year that says Scotland’s reaction to Covid-19 has been superior to that south of the border.

Although there is scant evidence to support this version of events, SNP spinners and elected members have expended considerable effort in suggesting the Scottish Government has acted with greater wisdom than the UK Government at every turn.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

In fact, the responses of governments across the United Kingdom have been remarkably similar. Where one has succeeded, so have others. Likewise, failure in one country has tended to be replicated elsewhere.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

It currently suits Ms Sturgeon to move away from the idea that her government has acted to a higher standard than others. As the election campaign heats up, she faces serious questions about some of the decisions – not least the transfer of Covid-infected patients from hospitals to nursing homes – taken on her watch.

The First Minister yesterday sought to tie together the actions of all governments on these islands, calling for a four-nations inquiry into the pandemic and suggesting it should begin this year. This would represent a considerable step forward from an earlier commitment to hold a Scotland-only inquiry in 2021.

Regardless of whether there may be some political expediency in Ms Sturgeon’s call, it is one that we broadly support. If lessons are to be learned about how we might better respond to a future pandemic, then it is essential that all governments are open about where they might have worked more effectively together.

However, a guarantee to hold such an inquiry this year may be rather premature.

It is certainly true that the roll-out of vaccines across the UK should be marked a success, but we are not yet fully out of lockdown and nobody can confidently predict when we will be in a position to take a clear view of events of the past year.

Ms Sturgeon is right to say that those most deeply affected by the pandemic should be heard. That is the very least they deserve. But if any inquiry – whether in Scotland or across the UK – is to be of value, it must not be rushed.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.