A man whose mum died after contracting coronavirus at a Fife care home hopes key questions will be answered during a full public inquiry into the pandemic in Scotland.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed plans for the judge-led inquiry – saying she believes it is appropriate to start the process “as soon as possible”.
Speaking at a briefing to discuss rising Covid-19 case numbers, Ms Sturgeon said the inquiry would take a “person-centred, human rights-based approach”, and would look into all the areas that were the responsibility of the Scottish Government, including what happened in care homes.
The announcement came after the deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for Covid recovery, John Swinney, met representatives of the Scottish branch of the campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK.
Alan Wightman, whose 88-year-old mum Helen passed away after catching the virus in Scoonie House in Leven, is the Scottish spokesman for the group.
He told The Courier: “I’m pleased that it’s been announced.
“I think the families are absolutely delighted that it’s happening, and the way in which they’ve been considered and treated since our meeting with the first minister back in March, it’s really been good.
“There were times when we were frustrated, when we didn’t think anything was happening, but things were going on behind the scenes that led to the announcement today.
“We’ll have another meeting with John Swinney in about four weeks’ time, but in the interim, we’ll be working with government officials to set the terms of reference for the scope of the inquiry. We’ve got everything we wanted.
“We’ve asked as well for some input into who the judge will be. We’ve got to have confidence in this inquiry, so we were told, ‘yes that will be considered as well’.
“It’s very, very positive.”
Alan says a separate Scottish inquiry is the best approach given health is devolved in the UK.
He said: “Decisions were made on behalf of Scotland here in Scotland, so it’s only right and proper that decisions that were made here are scrutinised here.
“The same goes for Wales and the same goes for Northern Ireland.
“Clearly there are matters that are not devolved, they are reserved to Westminster, so therefore a UK inquiry into those matters, such as border control, will also be required. I think you need both.
‘We want an honest opening of the books’
“Transparency is key here. That’s what they’ve promised us, that this will be independently led by a judge, possibly with a panel of experts to help them understand some of the more technical aspects that I’m sure will come up.
“We want an honest opening of the books. What documents exist?
“We want to know the points in time when decisions were made. Could the decisions have been made better, with the information that was known at the time?
“I’m not talking here about hindsight. I think what we’ll maybe be looking at, ‘you made a decision at the time, you maybe had three different alternative ones, you could have made, why did you pick this one instead of the others?’
“We really just want to understand the narrative of what happened here. It’s not about blame, it’s about understanding what went wrong, so we can improve things.
“There’s going to be another pandemic. Everyone’s agreed that there will be other pandemics in the future.
“We have to be better prepared. We were caught unprepared for this. We did have these exercises, we made plans, we just didn’t implement them.
“And that’s the very tragic thing that’s happened.”
Aamer Anwar, the solicitor acting on behalf of the group, said: “Today is the first important step in establishing accountability for 10,421 lives lost to Covid-19 in Scotland.”
In a statement, he said that the inquiry must “recognise and address the pain and individual and community damage caused by the deaths and the lack of public trust and confidence in the state institutions involved”.
He also wants the inquiry to “establish truth and accountability” and “ensure visibility of its processes and its decision making”.
Mr Swinney says he aims for the inquiry to get under way before the end of 2021.