Frequently asked questions
The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry has developed some Q&As to help answer your important questions.
What is the Inquiry investigating?
The Inquiry is investigating the devolved strategic response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland, including its impact on the provision of health and social care, education, business, finance and welfare support, as set out in its Terms of Reference. It has been tasked with investigating the period from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2022.
Who is chairing the Inquiry?
The Inquiry is chaired by The Hon. Lord Brailsford. The Chair, who acts in an independent capacity, leads the investigations and decides on findings and recommendations, in accordance with fairness and the need to avoid unnecessary cost.
How were the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference developed?
Before setting up the Inquiry, Scottish Ministers consulted on the Terms of Reference, and a consultation report was produced by the Scottish Government. Scottish Ministers published the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference on 14 December 2021. Following Lord Brailsford’s appointment, the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference were amended to make explicit reference to taking a human rights-based approach. The updated Terms of Reference were published on 28 October 2022.
When did the Inquiry start and how long will it take?
The Inquiry was set up on 28 February 2022 and has had to be built from scratch. It is not possible to say how long the Inquiry will take to reach its conclusions, but it will report as quickly as practicable, while ensuring it conducts a robust, independent investigation, establishes the facts and identifies any lessons that need to be learned so that Scotland is better prepared in future. The Inquiry will hold its first preliminary hearing in the summer of 2023, with its impact hearings expected to commence from October 2023.
Why does Scotland need a separate Inquiry?
People living in Scotland are governed by laws made under powers devolved to the Scottish Government and Parliament, and laws made under powers reserved to the UK Government and Parliament. The response to the pandemic involved both Scottish and UK authorities.
In December 2021, Scottish Ministers announced an inquiry would be held for devolved matters only, with specific Terms of Reference. The UK Government announced on June 2022 the Terms of Reference for the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, covering both devolved and reserved matters.
Both inquiries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, an agreement setting out how they will work together. The agreement includes commitments to providing clear information to the public about how each inquiry will conduct its investigations in Scotland, minimise duplication of work where possible and maximise value for money to the public purse.
I want to tell the Inquiry about how I was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. How can I do that?
Let’s Be Heard: Sharing Scotland’s COVID Experience is the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry’s listening project. Let’s Be Heard is giving everyone who lived in Scotland or is affected by decisions made in Scotland during the period the Inquiry is investigating, the opportunity to share their experiences and any lessons they believe should be learned from the devolved strategic response to COVID-19.
Further details on how to participate can be found on the Let's Be Heard website.
Let’s Be Heard will analyse the experiences people share, provide guidance, and help steer the investigatory work of the Inquiry’s legal team, Counsel and the Chair from an early stage. This means people’s experiences will play an important role in informing the Inquiry’s investigative approach.
Let’s Be Heard will also play a crucial role in informing the Inquiry’s reporting and recommendations to Scottish Ministers and will publish a series of reports on the Inquiry’s website.
Can members of the public attend hearings?
Members of the public will be able to attend hearings, though places will be limited. Information on how to obtain a place at a hearing will be published on the Inquiry’s website. Hearings will also be livestreamed on the Inquiry’s YouTube channel, so that everyone can follow proceedings.
What legislation underpins the Inquiry?
The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry is a statutory inquiry. That 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 to compel the production of documents. Together, they provide the legal framework which governs the Inquiry.
Can a public inquiry lead to criminal or civil proceedings?
Inquiries do not decide civil or criminal liability. They do not award compensation. The responsibility for that lies with courts or tribunals. Instead, inquiries investigate the matters entrusted to them in an inquisitorial way.
How does the Inquiry fit with investigations by the Lord Advocate and Crown Office?
The Inquiry will not determine any criminal liability. It is prohibited from doing so under the Inquiries Act 2005. 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 a core participant?
Where an individual, group or organisation has a significant interest in the Inquiry, the Chair may designate them as a core participant. Core participants have some additional rights, as described in the Inquiry’s core participant protocol. Please note, you do not need to be a core participant to be involved in the Inquiry.
Who are the core participants in this Inquiry?
A list of the Inquiry’s core participants and the core participant protocol can be found on our Core Participants page. The core participant and funding application process for the Inquiry’s health and social care investigations concluded in April 2023. It will be reopened again later this year (2023) to invite applications from parties with an interest in the Inquiry’s work relating to education and young people, and then for those with an interest in business, finance and welfare.
Is the Inquiry subject to Freedom of Information legislation?
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 does not apply to public inquiries. The Inquiry will conduct itself in an open and transparent manner. This includes providing information and updates on this website and livestreaming its hearings.