Sturgeon and Swinney arrive to give evidence at Covid inquiry

Sturgeon, who stood down as FM earlier this year, and the former deputy first minister will appear before the public probe into the handling of the pandemic.

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney to give evidence at Covid inquiry Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney are to give evidence at the UK’s Covid inquiry.

Sturgeon, who stood down as first minister earlier this year and the former deputy first minister will appear at the ongoing probe into the UK’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic on Thursday.

Launched by Boris Johnson in May 2021, the inquiry looks into decision-making in Westminster and devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and examines how well prepared the UK was for the pandemic.

It is being led by Baroness Hallett, who led the inquiry on the London 7/7 bombings. Hearings are expected to continue until 2025.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Former Deputy Minister of Scotland, John Swinney, arrives to give evidence at the Covid-19 inquiry on June 29, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)Getty Images

A separate Scottish inquiry looking at the impact north of the border has yet to hold public hearings after its chairwoman quit along with members of her legal team.

Who has spoken so far?

Former health secretary Matt Hancock told inquiry more must have been done to prepare for lockdownFlickr

The inquiry just completed its first week of witness hearings, a stage which is set to go on for six weeks.

Among those who have already given evidence include Jeremy Hunt, the UK health secretary, and former prime minister David Cameron.

NHS Scotland chief executive Caroline Lamb and Gillian Russell, the Scottish Government’s director for safer communities, answered questions on Wednesday followed by former health secretary Jeanne Freeman, though her session was impacted by technical issues.

Scotland’s former chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood’s planned appearance was rescheduled to another day. The inquiry declined to provide an explanation for the late rearrangement.

‘More should have been done to prepare for lockdown’

The UK must be prepared to hit a “pandemic hard” and lock down if necessary to prevent disease spreading, Matt Hancock has said.

The former health secretary told the inquiry that more should have been done to prepare for a lockdown before coronavirus began to spread around the UK in early 2020.

“What everybody missed in the western world was the lockdowns were going to be necessary,” he said.

He told Hugo Keith KC, lead counsel to the inquiry, that lessons must be learned, adding that the main issue was not that the pandemic preparedness plan had been focused on flu.

He said: “It is central to what we must learn as a country that we’ve got to be ready to hit a pandemic hard: that we’ve got to be able to take action – lockdown action if necessary – that is wider, earlier, more stringent than feels comfortable at the time.

“And the failure to plan for that was a much bigger flaw in the strategy than the fact that it was targeted at the wrong disease.”

Hancock added: “The doctrinal flaw was the biggest by a long way because if we’d had a flu pandemic, we still would have had the problem of no plan in place for lockdown, no prep for how to do one, no work on what, how best to lock down with the least damage.

“I understand deeply the consequences of lockdown and the negative consequences for many, many people – many of which persist to this day.”