SNP backs inquiry into Westminster and Holyrood’s pandemic response

The Scottish Government will co-operate with a public inquiry into the way the UK responded to the coronavirus outbreak, with Health Secretary Jeane Freeman saying she “fully expects” decisions taken in London and Edinburgh to be probed when the crisis has passed.

Ms Freeman said it was “right and proper” for the actions of governments across the UK to be scrutinised amid calls for accountability as the UK’s death toll rises beyond 20,000.

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday admitted that there had been mistakes in the Scottish Government’s response as she declined to echo criticism of UK ministers made by one of her own SNP MPs.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Last week Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has deputised for Boris Johnson during his personal three-week fight with coronavirus, refused to commit to an independent inquiry into what critics claim have been costly failures - particularly around the timing of the decision to go into lockdown, provision of protective equipment for health and care workers, and testing policy.

Jeane Freeman said the Scottish Government would co-operate with an inquiry

But Ms Freeman signalled the Scottish Government would back a formal probe. It came as Scotland’s death toll reached 1,249 with 10,324 confirmed cases of coronavirus north of the Border. A third of Scotland’s fatalities are believed to have taken place in care homes, with the failure
to protect vulnerable residents among the most pressing concerns for any future inquiry.

“I fully expect there to be a proper serious look, maybe an inquiry,” the Scottish Health Secretary said at the daily coronavirus press briefing in Edinburgh.

“If it is [an inquiry] we will of course take part in that freely and openly - about how the governments of the UK have responded to this pandemic, and decisions that have been taken, the basis of those decisions, the various factors that have come into play.

“Of course, if it is an inquiry, then the inquiry itself will look as widely as it chooses to do. I think that is right and proper.

“There should be proper scrutiny so that we can learn for the future, about where we may have got things wrong where we may have acted quicker, where we’ve got the right approach, so that all of that is there to learn from that and see how we might prepare ourselves for any future pandemics.

“But right now, my focus as health secretary is on everything we need to do in order to ensure that we protect our NHS to cope with the pandemic and the demands it will make on it… and ensure that we minimise the level of life lost.”

The First Minister admitted the Scottish Government has made mistakes and declined to criticise the UK Government’s response, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that it was right there was “as much consistency as possible” in policy between London and Edinburgh, particularly on entering and exiting lockdown measures.

It came after one of her own MPs called it “botched” and “shambolic” in an SNP press release this week.

The release carried comments from MP Stewart Hosie, who highlighted failures in securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and care workers, and said the UK Government had
been “far too slow, far too late, and far too chaotic in its approach”.

But Scottish ministers have also come under fire for a lack of PPE for care workers.

Asked about Mr Hosie’s comments, Ms Sturgeon said: “I understand how difficult and unprecedented this situation is. We’re all trying to make the best decisions.

“We can undoubtedly get things wrong along the way, as every government across the world will be.

“I’ll make mistakes, everybody involved in leading these responses will make mistakes, but it’s important we take the best decisions we can at every single stage.”