The Scottish people deserve answers about the mistakes made during the coronavirus pandemic, Anas Sarwar has said as he called for a judge-led public inquiry.
At FMQs, the Scottish Labour leader set out a range of decisions made by the Scottish Government around mass gatherings, herd immunity, care homes and Covid-19 testing that were in “lockstep” or slower than the UK Government.
Mr Sarwar urged Nicola Sturgeon to establish a Scotland-specific inquiry into how her government responded.
He said: “The Scottish people deserve more than just rhetoric, they deserve answers. They deserve more than being told that the Government cares, they deserve answers because we can’t allow Scottish exceptionalism to stop us from learning critical lessons.
“It’s always easier to focus on failures elsewhere but we must learn from mistakes here at home.
“We don’t need to wait for the UK Government, work can begin right now, to establish a judge-led, Scottish-specific public inquiry on the decisions made in Scotland.”
In response, the First Minister suggested the public could judge whether she has an “inability to face up to mistakes” but her focus was now on the vaccine rollout because Scotland could be “in the foothills of a third wave of this virus”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I think what they’re hearing from me is a candid admission that we would not – like many other governments across the world – have got everything right, and not just a willingness [but] a desire to face up to that and learn from that.
“I could paper the walls with bits of papers and timeline but, actually, my focus right now as First Minister is getting the vaccination programme delivered to keep people safe in the future, to make sure that we’re taking the right decisions – criticised by many for being too cautious and too slow – to keep people safe.”
On the issue of a public inquiry into her Government’s handling of the pandemic, Ms Sturgeon continued: “I’ve given that commitment, that commitment stands.
“I want to see that up and running before the end of this year.
“The UK Government has announced plans for a public inquiry and have asked for four-nations discussion about remit and where there might be overlaps.”
She added: “Having led this country to the best of my ability – far from perfectly – through this pandemic, I want, as much as anybody wants, to make sure that we learn the right lessons.”
Following FMQs, Mr Sarwar said: “The First Minister has always been better at spinning her failures than Boris Johnson.
“But many of the failures exposed by Dominic Cummings – the lack of PPE, insufficient testing, Covid positive patients being sent into care homes, and inconsistent and delayed decision making – will be failures that people recognise in Scotland.
“They weren’t decisions made by a UK Government but by the Scottish Government.
“We must guard against a Scottish exceptionalism, an idea that just because decisions were made in Scotland that somehow they were automatically better or the right ones.
“The reality is that one in 10 of our care home residents in Scotland lost their lives to Covid, 3,774 deaths, a third of the total.
“I gave three examples of decisions made here in Scotland where bad decisions led to unnecessary and avoidable deaths.
“I could have given more; a failure to have adequate PPE supplies, the failure to adequately ramp up testing, the failure to introduce strict testing and quarantine at our airports.
“None of this was the fault of our hardworking NHS staff. We are questioning the decision-making of the Scottish Government.