A public inquiry into Scotland’s response to the coronavirus crisis should be held this year to inform the response to any second wave, Fife Council stated yesterday.
The local authority will write to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging her to carry out a quick review of the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic before winter hits.
Councillors have said the investigation should focus on three main points, including whether more should have been done to prevent a “disaster” in care homes where 46% of Scotland’s 2,491 covid-19 deaths have happened.
They will also ask for a review of whether Scotland went into lockdown soon enough and whether there was enough preparation in terms of testing and PPE stocks.
Health Minister Jeane Freeman said lessons were already being learned as the response to the current pandemic continued.
Fife Council’s move follows a motion by Liberal Democrat councillor Tim Brett, a former director of Health Protection Scotland, the Scottish Government’s main advisers on health.
It comes after lockdown was reimposed in Aberdeen after a spike in positive cases and follows a call for a full public inquiry by Fife man Alan Wightman, whose 88-year-old mother Helen died after contracting the virus at Scoonie House care home in Leven.
While Ms Freeman has already signalled an intention to carry out a full review, Mr Brett said that could take months or even years and a short investigation is required now.
He was backed by Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative councillors. SNP members voted against the motion and branded it a disgrace.
SNP co-leader David Alexander said: “What annoys me is it’s already been stated that there will be an investigation into the pandemic, including care homes.
“To do it now when the pandemic isn’t over and people are dying is outrageous. To take staff away from what they are doing for this exercise will make it worse.”
Mr Brett said Scotland had one of the highest excess death rates in Europe and added: “It would be foolish to suggest this is a good result and we need to understand the reasons for it.
“I would like to thank the First Minister and the cabinet secretary for the way they have focused on the pandemic but clearly things did not go as well as in other countries.
“We have heard of the tragic consequences of so many deaths in our care homes.
“Great emphasis was put on the NHS but despite the fact Scotland has been leading the way in the UK on health and social care, our care homes were overlooked until disaster had happened.
“It’s not good enough to leave this to inquisitive journalists. We need a quick inquiry over the next month or so to learn lessons as the prospect of a second wave of the virus is all too real.”
Labour co-leader David Ross said an inquiry to get to the root of mistakes should have a “no blame culture”.
“What we don’t want to see, and what’s being warned about by the First Minister, is us going into winter and getting a resurgence of the virus on top of flu and normal winter diseases.
“That will put the health service under increased strain and we’ll have undone all the good work we have done up to now.”
Conservative leader Dave Dempsey also called for a review of Fife Council’s response to the pandemic but received no support outside his own party.
Ms Freeman said: “The Scottish Government has already committed to a public inquiry, and although we are still responding to the current pandemic, lessons are being learned, for example on the supply and distribution of personal protective equipment across health and social care.
“A lessons-learned process for regional resilience partnerships is capturing key issues, sharing good practice and, ultimately, shaping future planning and preparations.
“However the pandemic and its challenges are not over. We must continue to maintain our vigilance against the virus so we are ready to react to what lies ahead.”