Scottish Labour has said Holyrood must launch its own inquiry into the pandemic after a major report from two Westminster committees laid out mistakes made by the UK Government during the pandemic.
Nicola Sturgeon announced in August that the Scottish-specific inquiry would kick off before the end of the year, but this will be done as a public inquiry rather than being led by MSPs.
Under Holyrood rules, a committee could be established to head the inquiry – as was the case with the Alex Salmond inquiry earlier this year – or a current committee could take it on.
A report released on Tuesday by the Health and Social Care and Science and Technology Committees at Westminster said decisions made in the early part of the pandemic around lockdowns and social distancing “rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”.
In response, Scottish Labour deputy leader, Jackie Baillie, has pushed for a similar investigation in Scotland.
“Nicola Sturgeon ignored the same warnings as UK Ministers and with the same tragic outcome,” she said.
“At crucial points in the pandemic the UK and Scottish Governments were in lockstep – acting too slowly in response to the danger and failing to warn the public of the risk.
“But while England will benefit from the findings of this robust and detailed report, Scotland has been denied early findings of its own.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s own MPs helped deliver this analysis at Westminster while in Scotland they dither and delay on making sure her decisions are put under the microscope.
“Scotland deserves better.”
The Scottish Lib Dem leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, accepted there was a need for an investigation and accountability, but said that would not be done by SNP and Green MSPs.
“The joint Westminster committee report identifies failing after failing at a time when both the UK and Scottish Governments were working in tandem.
“People whose parents died in care homes, those struggling with long Covid and those whose businesses went under need answers about the decisions that were taken which turned their lives upside down.
“However, let’s not pretend that meaningful scrutiny of the biggest decisions taken by SNP ministers will come from passive SNP backbenchers and green MSPs bound by a no surprises contract.
“What we need is a proper independent inquiry led by a judge with legal powers to get to the bottom of this. This should be set up by Christmas and given a strict timeline for making an initial report of its findings.”
Scottish Tory health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane pushed for an inquiry to be set up immediately after MSPs return from the October recess.
“The SNP are still dragging their heels over beginning a Scottish Covid public inquiry. Nicola Sturgeon must now commit to starting this inquiry immediately after the October recess,” he said.
“Over 11,000 grieving families across Scotland need and deserve answers now. Nicola Sturgeon only announced plans for a Covid inquiry at the last minute, despite saying it was a priority for her during the election campaign.
“This is far too important for the usual nationalist dither and delay. They must take responsibility for their own critical errors during the pandemic, instead of hiding behind UK-wide reports.
“The Scottish Conservatives first secured cross-party support for an urgent Covid inquiry in November last year. The time for excuses is now over. This must be the first item on the agenda for MSPs as soon as the Scottish Parliament returns.”
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