COVID-19 Inquiry

We have established a public inquiry to examine the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland. Find out more.

These draft aims have been developed into terms of reference for the inquiry, following a public engagement exercise between August and September 2021. The report of this engagement has been published. 

Draft aims and principles


The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected every country in the world, and its impact has been unprecedented. The first case in Scotland was recorded in March 2020. Work is underway to establish a public inquiry to investigate the handling of the pandemic in Scotland.

What the inquiry will do

A Scottish inquiry can only look into devolved matters in relation to Scotland. The inquiry will operate independently of government, but we will engage with people and their representatives to ensure its terms of reference cover issues that have caused concern.

The purpose of a public inquiry is to:

  • investigate events causing public concern, for example the experience of COVID-19 in care homes
  • establish the facts in relation to such issues
  • determine the explanations for decisions taken, and causes of anything which may not have gone as expected
  • consider if and how different outcomes could have been achieved
  • establish any lessons to be learned from what has happened
  • make any recommendations that the inquiry considers appropriate

Once established by the Scottish Ministers, a public inquiry is independent of them. The terms of reference set by Ministers detail what the inquiry can and must achieve, for example:

  • its overall purpose
  • the particular matters to be determined e.g. whether the inquiry is being invited to review policy in a given area, or consider the facts of a particular case
  • whether it is required to make recommendations

 How an inquiry undertakes its task, for example choosing which witnesses it asks to give evidence or which persons should be given ‘core participant’ status, is up to the Chair of the Inquiry.


The draft aims of Ministers for the inquiry will be developed into terms of reference for the inquiry:

  • Scottish Ministers will establish, under the Inquiries Act 2005, a public inquiry into the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic in Scotland with the purpose of scrutinising decisions taken in the course of this pandemic so far, and learning lessons for future pandemics
  • the inquiry should examine the actions taken in response to the pandemic and should give particular consideration to the four harms of the pandemic in relation to Scotland:
  • direct health impacts of COVID-19, including cases and deaths in care homes
  • other health impacts
  • societal impacts, including education
  • economic impacts
  • the inquiry should examine devolved aspects of the four harms in relation to Scotland. While all relevant matters will be in scope, consideration will be given to how duplication of investigations between the Scottish and UK wide inquiries can be avoided. The interplay with the Lord Advocate's functions also need to be carefully considered

How the inquiry will work

Scottish Ministers expect:

  • a person-centred, human rights based approach to ensure that every person and organisation taking part can meaningfully participate, be treated fairly and be empowered to take part in the inquiry. In reporting, Ministers expect the inquiry to demonstrate that this approach has informed its recommendations
  • the inquiry to be outcome focused, identifying lessons throughout its work with timely reporting, including recommendations
  • that the inquiry will be established by the end of the year

Next steps

Stakeholder views, including the views of those bereaved during the pandemic, will be fundamental in reviewing the suggested approach to establishing a COVID-19 inquiry in Scotland and finalising the terms of reference. 

The mailbox will be open for views until the end of September 2021.


Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry website.

Back to top