Background to the Inquiry

On 1 March 2020 the first positive case of COVID-19 in Scotland was confirmed. By 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation had classified the outbreak as a global pandemic.

The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry has been set up to establish the facts and learn the lessons of the strategic devolved response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland. 

On 14 December 2021 the Deputy First Minister announced that the Honourable Lady Poole would chair the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry. The Inquiry's initial Terms of Reference were also published, following a period of consultation. The official set up date for the inquiry was 28 February 2022.

On 27 October 2022, the Deputy First Minister announced that the Honourable Lord Brailsford would chair the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry following the resignation of Lady Poole for personal reasons on 30 September 2022. 

On 28 October 2022, the Inquiry's Terms of Reference were published, after being amended to make explicit reference to a human rights-based approach. 

View a timeline of key dates of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland

Inquiry aims and objectives

The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry is investigating aspects of the devolved strategic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including its impact on the provision of health and social care, education, business and financial and welfare support, as set out in the Terms of Reference.

The Inquiry is independent of government and is working in an open and transparent manner to establish the facts and identify any lessons that should be learned so Scotland is better prepared in future. Following a robust and wide-ranging investigation, it will report its findings and make recommendations. 

The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry is a statutory public inquiry, which means it is established under the Inquiries Act 2005. That Act and the Inquiries (Scotland) Rules 2007 contain a range of legal provisions, including provisions about Terms of Reference, and powers to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath and compel production of documents. Together, they provide the legal framework which governs the Inquiry. 

The Inquiry is expected to make best use of the information and resources available to it and to consider all relevant material provided to it which is within the scope of the published Terms of Reference. The Inquiry will only make findings based on that material. 

See the areas the Inquiry has the power to investigate

The Inquiry Chair's role

As Chair of the Inquiry, Lord Brailsford acts in an independent capacity and is supported by the secretariat, legal team and counsel to the Inquiry. 

The Chair is responsible for implementing the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference and deciding its procedures, subject to a statutory duty to act fairly while avoiding unnecessary costs. It is for the Chair to decide how best to fulfil the Terms of Reference and conduct the investigation. 

The Chair supervises the running of the Inquiry and will ultimately write its reports. The Chair cannot make any findings of civil or criminal liability, nor can he award any compensation.