Standing Committee on Pandemic Preparedness: interim report

The Interim Report from the Standing Committee on Pandemic Preparedness, responds to the First Minister's Commission to the Committee. Further information on the Committee and the Commission is available at

Initial Proposals and Recommendations

Biomedical and health resilience issues converge in multiple reports and lessons learned exercises across the Scottish, UK and international contexts, including reports by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response[13], G7[14], SSAC[15], RSE[16] and the House of Lords Select Committee on Risk Assessment and Risk Planning[17]. The themes raised in these reports cover areas such as science and innovation, links to industry, resilience, public engagement, and trust. Drawing on the findings of these reports, the Committee’s work focussed on four key areas:

1. Zoonoses and Surveillance (including the use of Data and Analytics)

2. Behavioural Interventions and Community Engagement

3. Governance and International Engagement

4. Diagnostics, Vaccines, and Therapeutics

For each of these areas the Committee considered the most relevant problems for attention and the critical priorities for Scottish decision-makers. Further detail on these is included in the Appendix[18]. As a result of this work, the Committee has agreed four key recommendations for this interim report.

Recommendation 1: Collaboration

“To develop proposals for the creation of a Centre of Pandemic Preparedness in Scotland.”

The creation of a unified body for public health intelligence and scientific expertise would enable Scotland to maintain and build its research and response capacity. This type of collaboration would play a key role in joining-up academic and non-academic stakeholders for the investigation of unanswered questions, providing an evidence base for decisions and supporting government, organisations, and communities to manage risk and uncertainty. The vision is to create a partnership involving Scotland’s public health and research and academic communities, supplemented by input from the wider NHS, industry, and government – creating a national laboratory for knowledge-based pandemic preparedness. An illustration of the capabilities such a Centre could incorporate is included at figure 3 below.

Recommendation 2: Data

“To build on Scotland’s existing data and analytics strengths to support proposals that advance the development of these as core infrastructure for future pandemics.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the analysis of large and diverse datasets has been key to identifying signals and characterising the challenges posed by and response to the virus. Data are a fundamental resource for modern health and social care and access to these data is a core utility for emergency preparedness and response. For future pandemic preparedness, platforms that are flexible and adaptable and where approvals have been provided in advance in order to be able to carry out rapid, real-time investigations of data are needed. In this sense, data should be considered as key infrastructure, similarly to specialised laboratory infrastructure. The design of such infrastructure requires public engagement and involvement if it is to demonstrate trustworthiness and to realise the considerable public benefits it could produce. The Committee recommends the Scottish Government commissions the work to define a robust data infrastructure as a matter of urgency. It is vital that existing strengths such as Research Data Scotland and EAVE II (Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance of COVID-19) are brought together, and cohere with the Data Strategy for Health and Social Care.

Recommendation 3: Advice

“To develop linkages to Scottish, UK, and international scientific advisory structures, networks, and agencies and strengthen information flows from these in order to inform Scottish preparedness and response in the face of future pandemic threats.”

It is important that Scotland is well connected and able to leverage networks that will allow its public health agency and academic community to access essential information on emerging threats. Much of that is already achieved through participation in UK and global scientific structures; however, the Committee agreed that there is a need for these to be strengthened by structures which bring together leadership and expertise in Scotland and which therefore allow Ministers and policy advisors to have swift and direct access to advice in the face of an emerging threat.

Recommendation 4: Innovation

“To support continued innovation in life sciences and public health research for the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics to provide the capability to respond to novel threats when required.”

Development of novel diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines will be an international effort, but the Committee noted the successful partnerships between academia, the health service, and industry, which were vital contributors to a comprehensive and effective response against COVID-19. Our recommendations seek to build on this legacy infrastructure, to support the development of a “triple helix”[19] ecosystem that ensures Scotland has adequate capacity in human resource to meet future pandemic challenges, and to cement the inter-sectoral collaborations that were of such value for COVID-19.

Figure 3. Outline of Centre of Pandemic Preparedness capabilities

Partnerships: Enhancing Scotland’s linkages nationally and internationally

Data: Supporting data as a national core infrastructure to improve insights and response

Engagement: Public involvement and inclusivity to earn trust, confidence and increase impact of public health interventions

Advice: Enhance effectiveness of pandemic responses through authentic advice from public health, science and infectious disease expertise

Innovation: A “triple helix” partnership to advance capability in data science, diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics

Understand: Accelerate understanding of pathogens, populations, patients and outbreaks



Back to top