Bereaved families have called on ministers to include them in preparations for Scotland’s public inquiry into the official response to the pandemic.
Cathie Russell, who lost her mother Rose Hamilton, 89, in July, leads the Care Home Relatives Scotland campaign group and said that, despite meeting with current Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and his predecessor Jeane Freeman, they and Lost Loved Ones, another network supporting families and campaigning for an inquiry, had not been informed preparations were under way.
She said: “We have had around a dozen meetings and nothing was said about the consultation process, despite us asking officially to be core participants in the inquiry.”
Patrick McGuire of law firm Thompsons Scotland, who has been involved in a number of Scottish public inquiries and represents some of the families affected by the pandemic, has written an open letter to Deputy First Minister John Swinney calling on him to ensure the terms of reference for the Covid inquiry will give it the necessary powers.
He said: “This inquiry is much too important to everyone in Scotland for it not to include these key groups, and after being professionally involved in five public inquiries which have in many ways failed to live up to the expectations of victims, we cannot afford to see any repeat of the same mistakes.
McGuire warned, if carried out thoroughly, the Scottish Covid inquiry could ultimately lead to criminal prosecutions. He said: “There is no point in spending millions on a public inquiry and then finding the terms of reference have placed a straightjacket on the authorities who are then expected to take action.”
The Scottish Government said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the voices of bereaved families are heard through this process. Their feedback will be fundamental in reviewing our suggested approach, and setting the terms of reference for an independent Scottish inquiry.
“Public engagement on the draft aims and principles for the inquiry is currently underway, and we want to hear from as many people as possible before September 30. We will continue to listen to those affected by Covid-19, including bereaved families, on what they wish the public inquiry to focus on.
“Discussions are under way with the Lord President to identify a judge to chair the inquiry.”
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