A recent discovery has revealed that the UK’s Covid inquiry will be examining the possibility that Scottish ministers did not adequately allocate funds for social care and neglected to fully safeguard those most vulnerable to the virus.
During a three-week hearing in Edinburgh, Heather Hallett, the leader of the independent investigation, was informed that the actions taken by Nicola Sturgeon as first minister would be thoroughly examined in regards to the Scottish government’s handling of the pandemic.
Jamie Dawson, the Scottish representative for the investigation, stated that the significant choices made by Sturgeon’s administration will be evaluated. This includes determining whether they could have responded more quickly to the initial outbreaks, which may have resulted in saving thousands of lives.
Dawson stated that the investigation had previously been informed that officials in Boris Johnson’s administration in London had hesitated and postponed action, despite health experts alerting them to the potentially catastrophic effects of the virus in early 2020.
The same questions would be asked of Scottish ministers and officials, despite the limitations on their powers. Other European countries were locking down as the “rampaging” virus spread, overwhelming hospitals.
Dawson inquired whether a faster response to the dangerous threat could have saved lives. He questioned if the delay resulted in unnecessary loss of life.
Dawson delivered a lengthy and intricate opening statement, revealing that evidence has shown Sturgeon’s government was not adequately prepared for the crisis. This was due in part to their heavy reliance on UK government-led pandemic planning, which primarily focused on flu outbreaks.
The initial part of the trial began with statements from individuals from Scotland who had survived the coronavirus and family members of those who had passed away. These statements were shown in a 20-minute video. A witness named Jock shared that he experienced significant mental health issues, but did not receive any assistance from special support programs. He expressed, “No one was advocating for us.”
Dawson stated that Jock’s testimony would be a prominent topic during the Scottish hearings. The investigation had been presented with proof that there was inadequate communication with marginalized individuals, including minority ethnic communities, elderly individuals, and residents of care homes, according to him.
The lockdown, digital exclusion, and social distancing laws had a significant impact on some individuals. It was known by ministers that Scotland had the highest health outcomes and life expectancy figures per capita in the UK.
According to Dawson, the evidence indicates that the Scottish government did not adequately consider the impact of the pandemic on specific groups, including the disproportionate effects of the virus and countermeasures, as well as the lack of support or care typically provided.
Additionally, it appears that there was insufficient funding allocated for specific needs due to the increased demands brought on by the virus, such as a lack of funding for social services.
He mentioned that other important topics would consist of:
Did Scottish officials conceal the initial documented instance of Covid in Scotland, which originated from a Nike event in Edinburgh in February 2020?
The Scottish government’s decision to implement individual town and city lockdowns has sparked frustration among council and business leaders.
Did government officials attempt to implement a “zero Covid” plan despite the fact that the border with England was not secure?
Were Scottish government officials unjustly prevented from receiving appropriate financial support and participating in decision-making processes by the UK government?
In conclusion, Dawson stated that it is reasonable for citizens to expect their governments to have proper plans in place for handling emergencies such as pandemics.
Individuals responsible for making critical decisions in managing Scotland’s response to the pandemic must be held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof, in fulfilling their public duties.
Danny Friedman KC, counsel for the disability groups Inclusion Scotland and Disability Rights UK, said the Scottish government prided itself on its human rights policies but there was “an abyss between the rhetoric of national policies and what happens on the ground”.
Individuals with disabilities who were susceptible to harm were impacted by the sudden discontinuation of assistance within their homes, resulting in a lack of access to essential items such as food, hygiene products, and medication. This also resulted in a high number of deaths in residential settings and greatly affected the education of disabled children.
Geoffrey Mitchell KC, for the Scottish government, acknowledged its decisions caused pain, isolation and distress, and said had it had the financial powers to do so, with hindsight it would have locked down earlier.
However, he noted that Covid-19 presented unique and extensive dangers to global well-being, healthcare infrastructure, the economy, and society as a whole. Despite this, the Scottish government maintained that it implemented effective and efficient governance.