Frequently Asked Questions
The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry has developed some Q&As to help answer your important questions.
How does the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry fit with investigations by the Lord Advocate and Crown Office?
The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry will not determine any criminal liability. It is prohibited from doing so under the Inquiries Act 2005. If there are to be any prosecutions about matters relating to COVID-19, they will be for the courts and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. COPFS has a role in investigating deaths. It has a dedicated Covid Inquiry unit, and has published information for bereaved families on its website. The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry will respect the independent role of the Lord Advocate in relation to the prosecution of crime and the investigation of deaths in Scotland, as required by its Terms of Reference. The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry will fulfil its Terms of Reference by investigating all matters entrusted to it and making findings and recommendations.
Will there be public hearings?
Considerable thought is being given as to how this Inquiry is best conducted. The Inquiry is committed to public participation and hearings to ensure the broadest range of voices to be heard.
Can I apply to be a core participant?
The Inquiry has set dates on which it will invite applications for designation as a core participant. Applications are invited between Monday 15 August and Friday 16 September 2022.
There is a core participant protocol and application form available on the website, which explains how applications should be made.
Please note that you do not need to be a core participant to be involved in the Inquiry.
Everyone in Scotland will have the opportunity to be part of the Inquiry and to:
- participate in the forthcoming Listening Project and tell the Inquiry about their experience;
- keep up-to-date with the Inquiry’s progress through its website;
- respond to the Inquiry’s requests for written evidence and documentation;
- watch public hearings, which the Inquiry intends to livestream and make available on its website (with the exception of any hearings being held in private);
- read transcripts of hearings and any documents (including expert reports) published on the Inquiry’s website;
- read any witness statements published on the website;
- where invited by the Inquiry, give evidence as a witness at a public hearing; and
- read records and documents published by the Inquiry as part of its investigation, and its reports.
To help manage the number of people applying to be designated as a core participant, the Inquiry asks all potential applicants to consider two things before submitting an application. First, are the many ways of participating listed above already sufficient? Second, can they join or align themselves with an organisation or group which already represents their interest(s) and may be applying for core participant status?
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic directly affected everyone in Scotland. The Inquiry is tasked with reporting on lessons learned, but justice involves the Inquiry getting to the right answers with reasonable speed and without excessive cost. Granting too many core participant applications would likely make the Inquiry unmanageable and defeat its purpose.
Core participants have some additional rights, mainly in relation to hearings (there is more detail in the Inquiry’s Core Participant Protocol).
The role of a core participant is more than giving an account of personal experiences or producing documents. People can do that without being a core participant. Also, being a core participant doesn’t mean a person’s evidence has any greater value.
The Inquiry will welcome as core participants persons and bodies who are in a position to facilitate the better management of the Inquiry. These will be people or organisations who can engage with the Inquiry on matters of practice and procedure, and assist it in fulfilling its terms of reference.
It is not necessary to be legally represented in order to engage with the Inquiry. As part of the application process, applicants for designation as core participant will indicate whether they wish to be legally represented. The Chair has powers to direct joint representation in certain circumstances.
I want to tell the Inquiry about how I was impacted by the pandemic. How can I do that?
The death of so many as a result of COVID-19 is a tragedy, and others have suffered in many different ways. These experiences have helped shape the Terms of Reference and will continue to be critical during the Inquiry itself. The Inquiry's remit is to fulfil its Terms of Reference, and in doing so will gather a range of evidence. There will certainly be opportunities to engage with the inquiry, including a Listening Project which will be designed to facilitate participation from the broadest range of people.
What is the listening project?
The Inquiry is in the early stages of designing a listening project. Our aim is to enable a broad range of people who have been affected by the response to the pandemic to tell the Inquiry about their experiences and lessons they feel should be learned. Their accounts will make an important contribution to the work of the Inquiry, helping it to build its understanding, identify lines of investigation, and informing its final recommendations. We hope to have infrastructure in place to be able to start piloting this approach later this year. We will provide information and updates, including on our website, about this.