Frequently Asked Questions

The Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry has developed some Q&A to help answer your important questions. Lady Poole, Chair to the Inquiry, answers key questions in the video below.

FAQs for the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry

What is the Scottish Covid 19 Inquiry about?

Everybody in Scotland has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been widespread suffering. People have legitimate questions about the way in which the pandemic was handled.

The Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry has been established to provide answers. It will investigate the strategic response to the pandemic in Scotland, in areas set out in the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. 

It will report on the lessons to be learned, both positive and negative, so they are retained for the future. The Inquiry will provide a factual record of key elements of the strategic handling of the pandemic, and it will make recommendations, based on the lessons learned. 

What are the Inquiry’s aims?

The aim of this Inquiry is to establish the facts of, and learn lessons from, the strategic response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland. The Inquiry has been asked to make recommendations when it reports. The Inquiry will not shy away from making findings where wrong decisions were made or where the response was inadequate or fell short. The Inquiry’s recommendations will be made to Scottish Ministers to take forward to ensure that Scotland is better prepared for any future pandemics.

Who is undertaking the public inquiry?

The Inquiry Chair is The Hon Lady Poole (Anna Poole). Lady Poole is a judge of the Supreme Courts in Scotland.

What is the Chair’s role?

The Chair is responsible for discharging the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference and she decides its procedures, subject to a statutory duty to act fairly and with regard to the need to avoid unnecessary cost. The Chair supervises the running of the Inquiry and will write its reports, making findings about lessons learned and recommendations for the future. The Chair cannot make any findings of civil or criminal liability, nor can she award any compensation.

To whom is the Chair accountable?

As Chair of the Inquiry, Lady Poole acts in an independent capacity, including being independent of the Scottish Government.

What are Terms of Reference?

What the Inquiry investigates is determined by the legislation governing the inquiry and our Terms of Reference. The Terms of Reference were informed by public engagement and are issued by Scottish Ministers.

What powers does the Inquiry have?

Under the Inquiries Act 2005 the Chair has a wide range of powers, including the power to compel the production of documents and to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath.

Will the Inquiry get to the truth?

The Inquiry has powers to compel witnesses to appear before it and people to produce documents. It is right and proper that the Inquiry makes best use of the information and resources available to it and considers all relevant material provided to it which is within the scope of the published Terms of Reference. The Inquiry will only make findings that are based on that material. 

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. 

What is the difference between the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry and the UK-wide Inquiry chaired by Baroness Hallett?

Both Inquiries are relevant to people living in Scotland. The division of work between them reflects the division of power under Scotland’s devolution settlement. The Scottish Inquiry will consider devolved responses to the pandemic in areas within its terms of reference. The UK Inquiry will consider areas within its Terms of Reference.

Find out more about how we will work with the UK-wide Inquiry here

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 is in its establishment phase and is not currently accepting or considering applications for core participant status. The Inquiry will provide further information on this website about its processes in due course. 

Where the inquiry will be located?

This will be decided following careful consideration of the needs of the Inquiry and will include an assessment of accessibility.

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.

How long will the Inquiry take?

It is too early to provide a timetable. Careful thought will be given on an ongoing basis as to how the Inquiry is best conducted in order to achieve its aims. The Terms of Reference are extensive, and the Chair is liaising with both the Lord Advocate (who is responsible for the investigation of deaths in Scotland) and the Chair appointed to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, to ensure dovetailing of investigations. Our goal is to report as quickly as is possible, while ensuring the evidence is carefully gathered and considered to fulfil the Terms of Reference.

How much will the Inquiry cost?

While it is not possible at this stage to forecast the overall cost of the Inquiry, the relevant legislation obliges the Inquiry to consider costs carefully as it is funded by the public purse.

Who is funding the Inquiry?

The Inquiry is sponsored by the Scottish Government. It is funded by the Scottish Government but carries out its investigating and reporting functions, like any other public inquiry, in an entirely independent way.

Will you give regular updates on costs?

The Inquiry has committed to publishing its costs quarterly to remain open and transparent.