Bereaved families meet Swinney over Covid inquiry

time:2023-06-10 22:37:50source:Al Jazeera author:Press center3

Bereaved families have met the deputy first minister amid concerns over Scotland's Covid inquiry.

The public inquiry was set up in December 2021 to examine the Scottish government's handling of the crisis but has been hit by a wave of resignations.

Chairwoman Lady Poole and four members of the counsel team have stepped down, raising the prospect of delays.

John Swinney is understood to have told the families he expects progress in finding replacements by 25 October.

The Scottish Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group's solicitor Aamer Anwar said his clients were demanding answers.

He said: "The families respect that judicial independence must firstly be respected, but the bereaved families told Mr Swinney that they believe they have the right to answers from the Lord President on what has gone so wrong.

"There can be no further excuses for delays or mistakes."

Mr Anwar added that the group were hoping a judge with "a reputation for fairness, robustness, independence and compassion" would be appointed.

The inquiry said work was continuing to gather evidence ahead of oral hearings and plans are under way to undertake a listening exercise later this year.

Mr Swinney told the relatives there were 66 staff currently working on the public inquiry.

He added: "I gave assurances to the group today that work to appoint a new chair is being progressed at pace and that discussions with the Lord President about arrangements for appointing a new judicial chair are under way."

An update will be given to the Scottish Parliament at the "earliest possible opportunity," he said.

The families group's chairman Dr Alan Wightman, who lost his mother in May 2020 to coronavirus caught in her care home, said: "I want accountability.

"I want lessons to be learned and I want a list of recommendations to be provided and implemented."

He said he hoped the inquiry would bring the truth for more than 10,000 people who died from coronavirus in Scotland.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said it was "simply scandalous" that the families felt that they had not been put "front and centre of this inquiry".

The MSP added: "They are desperate for answers and it is completely unacceptable that over 60 staff working on the inquiry could not update these families on how it is progressing.

"Whoever is the new chair of the inquiry - and we need an appointment fast - must guarantee the families will be at the heart of hearings going forward. They want and deserve answers as to what went wrong."

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