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Ministers will meet families of Scots Covid victims as calls for inquiry escalate

© Steven Brown / DCT MediaLawyer Aamer Anwar is acting for campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice
Lawyer Aamer Anwar is acting for campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice

Ministers will meet families who lost relatives to Covid during the pandemic as pressure builds for a Scottish public inquiry.

The families, along with some of Scotland’s leading scientists, public health experts and charities, are urging the Scottish Government to announce an inquiry as a matter of urgency.

Lawyer Aamer Anwar, acting for campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, revealed a meeting with senior ministers would take place within weeks and repeated the families’ calls for an independent judge-led inquiry on devolved matters.

Nicola Sturgeon last week repeated her commitment to holding a Scottish inquiry into her government’s handling of the pandemic but insisted she must wait until the remit of the UK four-nation inquiry was known.

Anwar wrote to Sturgeon and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to demand they set a date for a Scottish inquiry to begin, insisting it is within their powers to act now.

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The virus has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in Scotland, including 3,341 in care homes. And Sturgeon has admitted she made mistakes in the way thousands of hospital patients were moved to elderly hubs, some who were Covid positive.

Boris Johnson announced earlier this year he would hold a UK inquiry in 2022 into the handling of the pandemic, which will include devolved matters such as health and social care.

In letters to Sturgeon and Yousaf, Anwar sought confirmation the Scottish Government would not wait for the UK Government to establish a public inquiry and asked them to confirm a date for when an inquiry would be established.

Anwar also called on Sturgeon and Yousaf to put bereaved families at the centre of Scotland’s Covid inquiry.

He said Yousaf had confirmed he would meet relatives before the end of the summer and Sturgeon and her deputy, John Swinney, may also attend.

We told last month how letters from the campaign group to Sturgeon and Yousaf went unanswered after the election. This prompted a public apology from the First Minister.

Sturgeon said on Tuesday: “It remains my commitment to have a public inquiry up and running within this calendar year. We will fulfil the terms of our 100 days commitment.”

Anwar said: “No family should ever have to go through the burden of losing a loved one and then to find that the legal system fails them, compounded by a delay upon delay in an independent investigation of a death. Nor should families have to rely on their own efforts to make sure the full facts about such deaths are established and those responsible for deaths are held to account.”

The Scottish Government said: “We have been clear that the wishes of bereaved families need to be front and centre of the public inquiry. The First Minister had a productive meeting with families earlier this year, and we have written to invite families for a further discussion.

“We will set out as soon as possible exactly how we intend to take forward the commitment to holding a public inquiry. We are clear that we expect the inquiry to begin its work by the end of this year.”