Minister rejects need for separate Scottish Covid inquiry

Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart said he doesn't think there is a need for a separate inquiry.

Minister rejects need for separate Scottish Covid inquiry iStock

A separate judge-led inquiry into the handling of the pandemic in Scotland has been dismissed by the UK Government.

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said the people of Scotland have been “failed” by decisions taken at both Westminster and Holyrood.

Speaking during Scotland Questions in the Commons on Wednesday, he criticised the UK Government’s “dither and delay” in securing the borders, arguing this had resulted in restrictions continuing for longer.

Murray went on to claim the Scottish public had been “kept in the dark” about the Covid-19 outbreak at a Nike conference held in Edinburgh in February 2020 due to decisions taken north of the border.

He added: “Will the Government agree with calls for an urgent separate Scottish judge-led public inquiry into both governments’ management of Covid-19 in Scotland so we can learn the lessons of Covid and the grieving families can get the answers they so deserve?”

Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart replied: “I don’t think, at this stage certainly, there is a need for a separate inquiry.

“We’re still at the very early stages of establishing the remit of the UK-wide one, which will cover both reserved and devolved matters.

“I think it’s important that that inquiry does look at all aspects of the situation. We should also remind ourselves that this is an unprecedented challenge that governments right across the world have faced.

“Inevitably with the benefit of hindsight different decisions would have been made. We’re learning all the time.

“I don’t necessarily accept some of the charges (Murray) has made, on borders for example.”

An independent public inquiry is due to begin in spring 2022, according to the UK Government.

Stewart later urged Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to resolve their dispute over the Scottish Government’s decision to impose a Covid-19 travel ban on parts of north-west England.

He said: “The issue between the mayor of Greater Manchester and the First Minister is clearly not satisfactory and I’d urge them both to come to a very sensible arrangement to allow travel to resume between Scotland and Greater Manchester.”

Conservative Andrew Bowie (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) also claimed the Scottish Government had “abandoned” the aviation sector with its ban on travel to Greater Manchester.

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