28 August 2023

Scottish Covid Inquiry to hold preliminary hearing

28 August 2023

People who lost loved ones to coronavirus will be among those attending a preliminary hearing of the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry.

The inquiry has been set up to investigate the devolved strategic response to the pandemic between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2022.

It has divided its investigation into three themes: health and social care; education and young people; and business, finance, and welfare.

Lord Brailsford, chairman of the inquiry, and co-lead counsel Stuart Gale KC will provide updates on Monday on progress to date, including the start of health and social care impact hearings in October.

It is expected these hearings will be held at George House in Edinburgh to allow refurbishment work to be undertaken at the inquiry’s main premises at Waverley Gate.

The works should ensure the venue is ready to hold further hearings by the summer of 2024.

Around 60 members of the Scottish Covid Bereaved group are expected to attend the hearing at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh on Monday.

Lord Brailsford and Mr Gale will provide information on the appointment of senior inquiry colleagues, including Ian Duddy, the inquiry’s chief executive, and Gordon McNicoll, interim solicitor to the inquiry.

Mr McNicoll will replace Joanna Bain, the current solicitor to the inquiry, whose fixed-term secondment ends on August 31.

In addition, Lord Brailsford and Mr Gale will set out how the inquiry will respect the independent role of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in investigating deaths which occurred in care homes, nursing homes and other settings during the pandemic.

Both men are also expected to express their condolences, and those of the inquiry team, to those who lost relatives and friends to Covid-19.

It comes after an initial hearing held earlier this year was heavily criticised by lawyer Aamer Anwar, who said it failed to pay respects to those who lost loved ones.

Mr Anwar, who represents the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, said: “On Monday it is anticipated that unless the Covid bereaved hear of real change, they will be damning in their criticism of the Scottish inquiry.

“In the last year this inquiry has spent nearly £8 million – so the very least the families were entitled to expect was a gold-plated and fearless inquiry, no different to the UK inquiry.”

A spokesperson for the inquiry previously said it acknowledged “the deep impact Covid-19 has had on everyone in Scotland”.

The inquiry will also screen a film intended as a “formal and lasting recognition of the suffering caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to the people of Scotland”.

The inquiry invited feedback from core participant groups representing bereaved and care home relatives, amongst others, and has sought to incorporate as much of this feedback as was practicable into the final edit.

The preliminary hearing on Monday morning will be livestreamed on the inquiry’s YouTube channel.

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