Sturgeon must clear up the confusion and get Covid inquiry going

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has written to the First Minister asking her to commit to a timetable for a coronavirus inquiry after a tumultuous week of evidence in Westminster, at the same time as more information emerged about the impact of the virus on care homes in Scotland.  

Mr Rennie's letter said:

Dear First Minister, 

I write to ask that you immediately clarify the terms of your commitment to a pandemic inquiry. 

In the autumn you committed to an independent inquiry into the Scottish Government's handling of this unprecedented crisis. During the election you told the public that it would be a priority.

Yet your statement to Parliament on Wednesday offered no timeline, and no indication as to whether this inquiry would be Scotland-specific or UK-wide. These basic clarifications cut to the core of this.   

While the chicanery of political advisors like Dominic Cummings may create headlines, I hope that you will agree that it is important that the detail of Scotland specific decisions are not lost. The longer we wait for an inquiry to begin, the greater the risk is that the truth strays, lessons won’t be learned and service improvements will be left waiting. 

You will know better than anyone the volume of distinct decisions taken by the Scottish Government. That means there are distinct lessons for us to learn.

Between the first and second waves of the virus I called for a rapid inquiry to ensure the Scottish Government learned lessons and head off further outbreaks. Instead students were sent back to university without protection, a tier system was replaced just as quickly as it had been developed, contact tracing saw long delays and travel and quarantine failures contributed to the virus being re-seeded. The result was a deadly second wave. 

While the vaccine programme now appears to offer us a route back to normality, we don’t know how long we will be living with the remnants of this virus. We must prepare for others. The key lessons we must take away must not be lost amid fading memories or squabbling advisors.

I would therefore be grateful if you could clarify the timetable and the steps you will take to guarantee that an inquiry covering all aspects of Scottish decision making and people’s experiences begins this year.

Yours sincerely,

Willie Rennie,

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader

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