A solicitor representing Scottish families bereaved by Covid-19 has said it is “ironic and deeply worrying” that a UK inquiry is under way while Scotland’s probe “appears to have stalled”.
Aamer Anwar, a solicitor acting on behalf of Scottish Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, gave a statement after former Court of Appeal judge Baroness Heather Hallett opened the UK Covid-19 inquiry in Paddington, west London, on Tuesday.
He said the families welcome the approach of the UK inquiry but feel “dismay and anger” after Lady Poole, the judge appointed to chair the independent public inquiry in Scotland, gave notice of her intention to step down from the key post for personal reasons.
He said: “Today our legal teams appeared at the UK inquiry’s first preliminary hearing.
“Module 1 is designed to investigate the United Kingdom’s resilience and preparedness, or lack thereof, the inquiry will be into high-level decision making and systemic issues and failures.
“In our submissions to Baroness Hallett, chair of the UK inquiry, we stated over the last two years the families we represent have campaigned for a robust, independent and transparent public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.
“The families welcome the approach of Baroness Hallett and her inquiry in assuring them that their voices will be heard at the UK inquiry.
“Today is the start of a process and the grieving families hope that this public inquiry will be an effective and credible mechanism to ensure what happened to them will not happen again.
“It is ironic and deeply worrying that the UK inquiry set up after Scotland is now under way while Scotland’s inquiry appears to have stalled.
“The first reaction of the families was dismay and anger at the delay that the Scottish chair’s resignation yesterday will cause to Scotland’s Covid-19 inquiry, so far it has failed to deliver on the promises made to them.
“Any new judge chairing the Scottish Covid-19 public inquiry must be robust, independent and with sufficient experience to carry out their role without interference from anyone.
“Today, however, we welcome the UK inquiry’s determination to expose culpable conduct, identify wrong decisions and judgments made, and ensure that lessons are learnt properly.
“The families we represent have fought for truth, transparency and accountability.
“No institution or minister of Government – whether they be Scottish, Welsh, UK or Northern Irish – should be allowed to escape robust scrutiny.”
The Scottish inquiry was established by the Scottish Government and will run alongside the UK-wide inquiry.