We have established a public inquiry to examine the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland. Find out more.
Letter to inquiry Chair
Scottish Ministers sent the following letter to the chair of the public inquiry on 9 June 2022.
Dear Lady Poole
The purpose of this letter is to note that agreement has been reached to a make a number of amendments to clarify the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry terms of reference, in line with the text annexed hereto. I will announce these clarifications to Parliament, in line with section 6(4) of the Inquiries Act 2005, on Thursday 9 June.
I am pleased that agreement has been reached on these clarifications to the terms of reference, which follow on from the period of reflection we agreed at the time of the announcement of your role as Chair of the Inquiry on 14 December 2021. We are agreed that none of the changes represent fundamental alterations to the terms of reference but that they should serve to clarify the scope of the Inquiry in a number of positive and important ways. At all events, the Government’s objective has been to set terms of reference that enable you to hear the fullest range of evidence on the strategic elements of the handling of the pandemic, and enable you to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
I recognise that the interpretation of the terms of reference is a matter for you as Chair, independent of Ministers and Government. I note that you have openly explained your approach in this regard, issuing a statement on your website that the Inquiry will interpret the terms of reference flexibly and that the fact the terms of reference do not list particular groups does not mean that they are excluded. Your statements about the importance of equality and human rights will be appreciated and reflect your experience and expertise in this area.
I consider it important that the clarifications to the terms of reference reinforce the Inquiry’s public statements on the importance of examining equality and other disparities, including the unequal impact on people, as part of its assessment of each of the strategic elements of the handling of the pandemic. The addition of the new text at section 6(c) of the terms of reference confirms our intention for these matters to be central to the work of the inquiry.
On the same basis, the amendment at paragraph 2(b) regarding the imposition of lockdown and other restrictions to ensure that the impacts of these restrictions, including for those implementing them as well as those subject to them, are clearly within scope of the inquiry. As we all know, the imposition of lockdown and other restrictions had many impacts on all areas of our society so it is critical that the inquiry is able to thoroughly consider these. I recognise the position as we have previously discussed, that you were always intending to consider impacts across your investigations, but this amendment provides additional emphasis given the specific language of paragraph 2(b) focusing on the decision to lockdown and impose other restrictions.
The final clarification is to expressly include social care and the experiences of unpaid carers in the terms of reference. Whilst it was always our intention for social care to be within scope of the inquiry, this clarification puts that beyond any doubt and I know will be welcomed by many stakeholders.
I continue to be grateful for your taking on the role of chair of the Scottish public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and your contribution through the period of reflection to these final terms of reference. The people of Scotland can have confidence that you will approach the inquiry and fulfilment of its terms of reference in a way that is inclusive and fair.
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