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Covid public inquiry in Scotland will go ahead, Nicola Sturgeon confirms

Bereaved families will have their voices heard in a judge-led public inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of decisions in the pandemic.

The First Minister announced the decision shortly after families met her deputy, John Swinney, to push the case for answers.

Ms Sturgeon, at a Covid briefing in Edinburgh on Tuesday, said the inquiry will start at the end of the year.

“I do believe a full public inquiry has an extremely important role to play both in scrutinising the decisions we took and continue to take in the course of the pandemic,” she said.

However, Ms Sturgeon’s political opponents accused her of delaying a quick start by announcing a consultation instead of launching the probe now.

The SNP Government is seeking views on how to set up the probe, which was among the promises for the government’s first 100 days since the May election.

Recognise the ‘pain and damage’

Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, who is backing a campaign group calling for an inquiry, welcomed the move.

But he set out a list of terms the group insist the government must follow.

Mr Anwar said the probe has to “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.

Aamer Anwar is backing campaigners who called for an inquiry in Scotland.

He called for bereaved people to have a “full and central role” in the process.

Mr Anwar added: “Today is the first important step in establishing accountability for 10,421 lives lost to Covid-19 in Scotland. Mr Swinney said that his core priority is to get the public inquiry up and running by the end of this calendar year.

“Boris Johnson should take note that his government can no longer be allowed to hold the process back from asking difficult questions.”

“We will continue to listen to those affected by Covid-19, including bereaved families, on what they wish the public inquiry to focus on.”

– John Swinney

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the terms of the announcement, outlined in a government “aims and principles” paper were “shameful”.

He said: “Despite promising the people of Scotland that a Scottish-specific inquiry was on the SNP’s 100-day list, the SNP has shown that it simply is not a priority for them.

“They are dragging their feet, ignoring the pain of the grieving families and sacrifices of thousands of key workers.”

Scottish Tory health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “It’s a disgrace that they are only getting around to this now, when Nicola Sturgeon promised it would be a priority during the election campaign.

After meeting the group in Glasgow on Tuesday morning, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the government has been committed to inquiry since the early days of the pandemic.

“We will continue to listen to those affected by Covid-19, including bereaved families, on what they wish the public inquiry to focus on.”

The Scottish Government is in talks with counterparts across England, Wales and Northern Ireland for a wider UK inquiry.

Latest Covid infections at record high

The decision was announced as officials confirmed 10 coronavirus-linked deaths and a record 4,323 cases in the past 24 hours in Scotland.

It takes the death toll under the daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 8,080.

Daily test positivity rate is 14.5%, up from 12.4% the previous day.

A total of 364 people were in hospital on Monday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up by eight on the previous day, with 43 patients in intensive care, up two.

So far, 4,850,552 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 3,587,145 have had their second.

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