The decision on Scotland holding a public inquiry how the coronavirus pandemic has been handled is “imminent”, according to the solicitor representing families of Scots who fell victim to the virus.
Members of the UK group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice were joined by Aamer Anwar at the Scottish Government for a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Jane Morrison, Jude Kilbee, Connie McCready, Peter McMahon and group chairman Alan Wightman met Deputy First Minister John Swinney – who is also the Covid Recovery Secretary – and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf during the discussions at Holyrood.
In a statement on behalf of the group, Mr Anwar said: “Today the Scottish families pushed for the greatest scrutiny, accountability and transparency through a Scottish public inquiry which must not be delayed any longer.
“It is increasingly clear to the bereaved families that they can have no confidence in a UK Government that continues to delay a public inquiry.
“So many families throughout Scotland have seen their loved ones taken by this disease, their voices are no longer heard, but their families must be allowed to speak for them, that is the very least they are entitled to.
“Every single death represents failure and that has undermined dramatically the relationship between the public and government.
“This inquiry needs to start taking shape now, especially when grieving families are trying to come to terms with what has happened and asking whether deaths could have been avoided, and what needs to be done to prevent it happening again.
“For a public inquiry to be effective and meaningful, grieving Scottish families must be at the heart of the inquiry process to get to the truth of what happened and that can only really happen with a Scottish public inquiry.”
As of Tuesday, according to the Scottish Government’s daily statistics, the death toll of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days is 8,041.
However, in the weekly National Records of Scotland statistics, published each Wednesday, data shows 10,421 people have now died since the start of the pandemic from confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
Ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she committed to an inquiry covering Scotland in 2021, but added a UK-wide inquiry could also look at issues affecting each nation.
The SNP’s election manifesto said there should be a “person-centred” public inquiry that would hear from those who have lost loved ones to the virus.
Mr Anwar added: “Today the Scottish Government gave the families hope that the quest for accountability and truth would not be shut down and they are kept front and centre of any Covid-19 public inquiry.
“But the Scottish Government were told in no uncertain terms there needs to be a Scottish public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths and the subsequent handling of the pandemic by the state.
“A commitment was made by the SNP to make a decision within 100 days of government on the Covid-19 public inquiry. That time limit runs out on the 25th August 2021.
“The families were told today by the Deputy First Minister John Swinney that the decision the Scottish Government will make is imminent.
“If the Scottish Government wants to help build trust and confidence, then the experience of the bereaved families must be at the heart of the public inquiry.
“If the Scottish Government agreed to set up a Scottish public inquiry, they would be supporting all those affected in their pursuit of truth, justice and accountability – the families deserve nothing less, that is the most fitting tribute that our country can pay to the victims of Covid-19.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has taken great care to ensure it listens attentively to the views of bereaved families in the development of a Scottish Covid Inquiry.
“The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care had a very constructive discussion today on the issues bereaved families feel need to be addressed as part of the Covid inquiry.
“Engagements like this are a vital part of the careful preparations required to ensure that the views of people who have been bereaved by Covid-19 are taken into account so that the concerns and issues they raise can be resolved.
“We have been clear that we will set out the steps that we’re taking to establish a Covid inquiry as part of our 100 days commitments that will begin its work by the end of this year, and will set out further details shortly.
“Following the UK Government’s decision to follow us in committing to a public inquiry, we have been considering how the remit of a UK-wide inquiry might cover issues relevant to Scotland.
“When we have a greater sense of that remit, we will make a judgment on the extent to which a UK-wide four nations inquiry will cover Scottish-specific issues.”