Scottish Government COVID-19 Advisory Group minutes: 26 March 2020

A note of the first meeting of the COVID-19 Advisory Group held on Thursday 26 March.

Attendees and apologies

Advisory group members

  • Andrew Morris

  • David Crossman

  • Sheila Rowan

  • Catherine Calderwood

  • Gregor Smith

  • Chris Robertson

  • Mark Woolhouse

  • Angela Leitch

  • Jim McMenamin

  • Tom Evans

  • Steven Reicher

  • Aziz Sheikh

  • Jill Pell

Scottish Government

  • Roger Halliday
  • Niamh O’Connor


  • [Redacted]

Items and actions




Chair welcomed all to the first meeting of the CMO Advisory Group on COVID-19 in Scotland. Group agreed its role is to provide additional expertise to support CMO in advising FM and other Ministers on COVID-19 in Scotland. 


The Remit of the group was agreed by all, subject to confirmation of the principle of reciprocity with SAGE (and it’s advisory structures including SPI-M-O and others). This principle means all papers and information considered by the Scottish Government (SG) CMO Advisory Group can be shared with SAGE and vice-versa. 

Action: DCMO to confirm with SAGE Chair the principle of reciprocity (reciprocal sharing of information) will apply to SG CMO Advisory Group and SAGE and its sub-groups

Action: on confirmation, Secretariat to update final remit and circulate to members

Modes of working

The chair introduced a discussion on modes of working that resulted in following group agreement:

  • meetings will be held via Zoom. Collaborative working will be via the NRS private Slack channel
  • the Secretariat will be shared between Office of the Chief Medical Officer and Office of Chair of group
  • membership of the group will be flexible and kept under review by the Chair and CMO and incorporate additional expertise as required
  • the group will seek to avoid duplication and seek to add value to existing structures and processes
  • the group will be outward focussed, connect with international expertise and research, and consider a range of evidence when formulating its advice (scientific, social scientific, clinical, public health)
  • the group may solicit advice on specific issues through small task groups convened by members


The group agreed core inputs would include:

  • SAGE advice and associated modelling
  • Scottish Government modelling and data on capacity and demand
  • research that group members lead in their respective professional capacities
  • wider international research and experience as appropriate

Action: SG to circulate Scotland level modelling and analysis in advance of next meeting

  • [Redacted] to share regular University of Edinburgh Covid 19 Epidemic Response Unit Daily Briefing Note on doubling times
  • Chair’s office to circulate details of experience from Singapore Webinar and [Redacted] to follow up with circulation of slides from webinar
  • [Redacted] and [Redacted] to work with Corporate Analytical Hub, SG/PHS/NSS/NHSS/HPS colleagues to draft two page paper on how to harness data to address specific questions as requested by CMO/Ministers


The group discussed its regular outputs. The discussion concluded:

  • a short note of each meeting would be produced that addressed topics considered which would be published on the SG webpages, with the group Remit and Membership
  • an action minute would be produced after each meeting that would be Official-Sensitive and not for further circulation
  • bespoke advice to the CMO on specific issues as requested would be produced

Action: [Redacted] to produce inventory of current Scottish and UK research

The group agreed its immediate priorities are to provide a source of rapid and flexible expert advice to the CMO and First Minister as specific questions arise; and to provide technical advice to the Scottish Modelling team.

Next meeting

The group agreed to meet every Monday and Thursday from 16:00 to 17:30 for the period of its existence. The next meeting is Monday 30 March 2020 at 16:00. Invitations and papers will be issued by the Secretariat

Summary notes

  1. It was agreed that comprehensive work is already taking place in the SAGE, SPI-M, SPI-B and NERVTAG groups and that this group will take care not to duplicate that work; rather the group will seek to apply relevant evidence to the specific context in Scotland.

  2. The group considered what sort of data it would be desirable to see in order to inform discussions, such as further information on the susceptibility of different population groups to COVID19 and the levels of compliance with countermeasures against viral transmission in different groups.

  3. Currently available data sources were discussed, including data on Health and Social Care demand; modelling based on SAGE advice and adapted for the Scottish context; and research studies on Covid 19 underway that group members are involved in.
  4. The Group agreed its priorities are to provide a source of rapid and flexible expert advice to the CMO and Ministers as specific questions on the context in Scotland arise; and to provide technical advice to the Scottish Government Modelling team. For example, evidence of lower rates of compliance with countermeasures in particular groups may suggest consideration of additional communications efforts tailored to those groups , and updates on the reproduction rate and size / timing of the peak would inform NHS capacity planning.
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