7. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will outline the timescale for the independent public inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. (S6O-00071)
The Scottish Government will establish a Scottish public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 by the end of this year in order to scrutinise decisions that were taken during the course of the pandemic so that lessons are learned for future pandemics.
The Scottish Government is currently inviting views on the inquiry’s draft aims and principles, which will shape the terms of reference. Discussions are also going on with the United Kingdom Government on the planned UK inquiry in order to ensure that all areas that need to be considered are covered in a way that gives confidence to bereaved families and others.
Given the importance of the issues involved, is it anticipated that there could be staggered reporting as the inquiry progresses, by way of interim reports, such that important lessons can be learned and recommendations made in a timely manner?
Annabelle Ewing makes a reasonable point, but the process of and timescale for the inquiry will be matters for the chair of the inquiry, who will operate independently of ministers.
We can, of course, set out some of our expectations as a consequence of our discussions with interested parties. A very good example of how phased reporting can illuminate issues that an inquiry is wrestling with is provided by the inquiry into historical abuse, which Lady Smith chairs: a number of case studies have been reported and the approach has provided clarity and certainty for many individuals who have suffered in that regard. There are models that can operate in the spirit that Annabelle Ewing envisages, and I will consider the issue as we establish the terms of reference.