Inquiry policies

Complaints policy

In all our work, we aim to maintain excellent standards at all times.


Standards you can expect when engaging with the Inquiry

We will:

  • treat all who engage with the Inquiry courteously and with respect;
  • maintain confidentiality;
  • respond to phone calls, emails and letters promptly;
  • provide clear information about the work of the Inquiry, what we can and cannot do, and how you can engage with us; and
  • ensure Inquiry colleagues have the skills to do their jobs effectively, and in a trauma-informed way.

We will always take complaints seriously and if our performance is found to have fallen short of those standards, we will try to put things right.

Please note, observations about the way in which a decision has been made, or disagreement with a decision, are not complaints within the scope of this policy.


Making a complaint

Please send your complaint in writing to:


Or by email:

When making a complaint, please:

  • provide your name and either a postal or email address through which we can contact you – please note, we cannot respond to anonymous complaints;
  • explain your complaint as clearly as you can; and
  • provide the details of what you are complaining about, including any dates, particular events and, if known, the names of any Inquiry colleagues who were involved.

If you do not provide the above information, we may not be able to respond to your complaint and may decide to take no further action.


How we will deal with your complaint

We will:

  • acknowledge your complaint within three working days of receipt;
  • explore with you whether your complaint can be resolved without further investigation;
  • if investigation is required, properly and appropriately investigate your complaint; and
  • aim to provide you with a written response following such investigation, within 10 working days.

If that deadline cannot be met, we will send you an explanation and inform you of when you can expect a full response.

Stage 1

At Stage 1, your complaint will be dealt with by a senior manager. If you are not happy with the response you receive, please write back to us using either the Freepost or email address above and we will escalate your complaint to Stage 2.

Stage 2

If your complaint reaches Stage 2, it will be considered and responded to by the Inquiry’s Chief Executive. If, following this response, you still feel your complaint has not been dealt with adequately, please let us know in writing using the Freepost or email address above and we will escalate your complaint to Stage 3.

Stage 3

Lord Brailsford, Chair of the Inquiry, will consider complaints that reach Stage 3. His decision is final and there will be no further opportunity for review.

Human rights and equalities

Human rights and equalities are important to the Inquiry and will be considered throughout all its work. Paragraph 7(b) of the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry’s Terms of Reference states that,

"the Inquiry will, as the Chair deems appropriate and necessary, consider the impacts of the strategic elements of the handling of the pandemic on the exercise of Convention rights (as defined in Section 1 of the Human Rights Act 1988". 

In addition, when reporting, the Inquiry is required "to demonstrate how a human rights-based approach by the Inquiry has contributed to the Inquiry's findings in facts and recommendations". 

Fairness is of the utmost importance and will underpin the Inquiry’s decisions about its procedure and conduct. The Inquiry will report as soon as is practicable.  

When investigating the 12 areas in its Terms of Reference, the Inquiry is considering whether the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland had any adverse effects on the exercise of human rights. Paragraph 6(c) of the Terms of Reference refers to unequal impacts on people, and so includes consideration of inequalities arising from the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Inquiry has no power to determine any civil or criminal liability, including whether particular human and equality rights have been violated in individual cases.  

The Inquiry will also ensure its work complies with human rights and equalities legislation. 

Policy statement: Approach to equalities

This document sets out the approach of the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry (the Inquiry) to the consideration of equalities issues while undertaking its work to establish the facts of, and learn lessons from, the strategic response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland. 

The Inquiry has a policy statement on its trauma informed and human rights-based approach which can be found above. These issues are interlinked, and the policies should be considered together.



  1. The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, which are set by Scottish Ministers and specify the areas the Inquiry has the power to investigate, provide that the Inquiry will, as the Chair deems appropriate and necessary, consider any disparities in the strategic elements of the handling of the pandemic, including unequal impacts on people.
  2. To deliver on this requirement, the Inquiry will consider equalities issues, as set out below, throughout its operation and investigative processes. This approach will also inform the Chair’s findings and recommendations.



  1. The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry recognises that everyone in Scotland has their own unique experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are many ways in which this has impacted, and continues to impact, their lives.
  2. The Inquiry also acknowledges that this impact may not be the same or feel equal for everyone and recognises that structural inequalities existed for certain groups prior to the pandemic.
  3. In recognition of this, the Inquiry will give careful consideration to how these impacts have been felt by communities across Scotland, and any potential disparities in this impact. Particular consideration will be given to disparities that are related to a protected characteristic, or the intersection of more than one protected characteristic. 
  4. The Inquiry strives to proactively provide opportunities for everyone to participate meaningfully in its work and recognises the importance of working closely with a range of participants, organisations, and academics. It welcomes the diversity of perspective, thought, scrutiny and insight to inform how it conducts itself and comes to its conclusions and recommendations.
  5. The Inquiry also recognises that there is a strong link between a diverse and skilled workforce, an inclusive culture, and public trust and confidence in the Inquiry’s ability to conduct its work fairly. The Inquiry is committed to maintaining an inclusive and respectful working environment for all its people, with a workforce that reflects the communities it serves. The Inquiry will draw on the rich and diverse perspectives of each of its employees, tapping into their unique skills, abilities, and talents to improve outcomes


How will the Inquiry do this?

  1. Our approach to how we will consider equalities is central to how the Inquiry will conduct its investigations and in its processes.


  1. When the Inquiry is investigating the 12 areas in our Terms of Reference, it will consider the following issues:
    • Whether the strategic handling of the pandemic had an adverse effect or impact on groups of people sharing protected characteristics including consideration of disproportionate and intersectional impacts.
    • Whether the likelihood of such impacts was considered by decision makers, including compliance with legal requirements.
    • Whether action was taken to mitigate against such impacts and reviewed as appropriate, including compliance with legal requirements.
  2. Public authorities and those exercising public functions in Scotland have a duty, in terms of Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) to have due regard to eliminate conduct that is prohibited by the Act; advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it; and to foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it. This duty is called the General Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).
  3. The term ‘protected characteristic’ refers to one of the following characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation [1].
  4. In addition to the general duty under the PSED, there are additional specific duties on listed public authorities in Scotland. Other duties are applicable to particular bodies such as the Fairer Scotland Duty and the Islands Communities Impact Assessment Duty. The Inquiry will consider all of these duties where applicable.
  5. The Inquiry will consider developments of legislation and policies individually and cumulatively and the extent to which regard was given to the above issues.
  6. To do this, the Inquiry will adopt a three-stage approach: 
    • Stage 1 - Determine at the outset which statutory equality duties are applicable to the decision making and implementing bodies under investigation;
    • Stage 2 - Actively take into consideration any human rights and equality issues identified when investigating the Terms of Reference; and
    • Stage 3 - Apply any findings from this approach when deciding on lessons learned and recommendations to make.
  7. The Inquiry has no power to determine civil or criminal liability and will not make findings on whether individual rights were breached. However, when considering what lessons may be learned, where it is relevant, the Inquiry will consider systemic adverse impacts on protected characteristics.


[1] The protected characteristic of marriage/civil partnership is not covered by PSED but the Inquiry will consider disproportionate impacts on family life, including marriage and civil partnership, as part of the Inquiry’s human right based approach.


  1. In addition to instilling equalities considerations in its investigations, the Inquiry’s approach to equalities recognises the importance of taking positive actions to ensure there are opportunities for all people who have been most affected by the pandemic to have proper and meaningful participation in the Inquiry’s processes.


Let’s Be Heard

  1. The Inquiry is gathering evidence from individuals and organisations representing those with protected characteristics and other marginalised groups (such as those from different socio-economic backgrounds or those in different localities) where it is relevant to each of the 12 areas included in the Terms of Reference, including consideration of disproportionate and intersectional impacts.
  2. The main vehicle in gathering a diverse range of experiences and perspectives is through the Inquiry’s listening project, Let’s Be Heard. This project has allowed the Inquiry to hear directly from all people of Scotland including children and young people, about their experiences of the pandemic, how these experiences impacted them and any lessons they believe should be learned. These experiences help guide the Inquiry’s investigations and inform its reports and recommendations. This includes identifying any disproportionate or unequal impacts on particular groups or communities,drawing on their experience through more focused engagements.
  3. The Let’s Be Heard team is proactively working to remove barriers to participation by providing a wide range of choice around how individuals and groups can engage with the Inquiry. They will also use a trauma informed and person-centred approach in outreach activities, and will offer different versions of public-facing materials including Easy Read, British Sign Language (BSL), Braille and translations to other languages.


Access to Public Hearings & Witness support

  1. The Inquiry will ensure that accessibility issues are fully considered, both in its choice of venues, and in the support available for witnesses to enable full participation in proceedings. In keeping with the transparent way in which the Inquiry will work, public hearings will also be live streamed on the Inquiry’s YouTube channel and all hearing transcripts will be made publicly available after the hearings.
  2. Witnesses can also apply to the Inquiry to request adjustments to the way they give evidence where required. To ensure witnesses giving oral evidence to the Inquiry are able to participate effectively in proceedings, the Inquiry will pay for expenses such as travel and accommodation costs and accessibility needs for witnesses and a supporter.


Measuring progress
  1. The Inquiry will continue to work collaboratively with stakeholders to increase levels of confidence among the diverse communities it serves and is committed to continuously reviewing its approach to equalities with these stakeholders as the Inquiry progresses, based upon feedback, experience and practice and embedding any learning to enhance its conduct.

Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults

Sometimes Inquiry staff may be in contact with children, young people and adults who are at risk of harm. This includes through our listening project, Let’s Be Heard

If you tell us something that makes us worried about your safety, we might need to tell someone else what you have told us.  

For example, we might have to tell: 

  1. The police – We may contact the police if we believe you are in danger, if we believe you are at risk of harm or if you tell us a crime has been committed. 
  2. Social and healthcare services – We may contact social care services or a healthcare professional if we are concerned about your wellbeing. 

We will usually tell you first if we are going to do this. However, if we feel that you are at risk of serious harm, we may need to share the information without telling you first. If what you have told us concerns children and we are concerned they are at risk of harm, we will always tell the Police or social work.  

We take your confidentiality very seriously and will only consider speaking to someone else if we are really worried about what you have told us.  

Unacceptable actions policy


The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone in Scotland and many people who experienced tragic events or suffered in other ways want answers to legitimate questions. We understand that people contacting us may be upset, angry or frustrated. Whatever your reason for contacting the Inquiry, our colleagues are here to assist you and will do so in a professional and respectful way. It is expected that the same courtesy is shown to them.

Occasionally, individuals can make persistent and unreasonable demands of the Inquiry which make it difficult for us to undertake our duties effectively. When this happens, we must take action to ensure that our resources are directed towards furthering the Inquiry’s important work.

There can also be instances where contact from an individual becomes aggressive, abusive or threatening and we must take action to protect Inquiry colleagues.

This policy explains what we consider to be unacceptable behaviour and how we will deal with it.


Unreasonable demands

A demand may be unreasonable due to the frequency of requests for information, the nature and scale of the service expected, or the number of approaches made by an individual.

This includes:

  • repeatedly demanding responses within an unreasonable timescale;
  • continuing to demand an answer to a question we have already answered or explained is outside the scope of the Inquiry; and
  • insisting on communicating with a specific Inquiry colleague when we have explained this is not possible.

Responding to unreasonable demands reduces the time Inquiry colleagues can spend undertaking their duties. In deciding whether someone has made unreasonable demands, we will look at the impact these demands are having on our ability to further the Inquiry’s work.


Excessive contact or unreasonable persistence

The level of contact made by an individual may be considered unacceptable due to the persistence or repetitiveness of communications.

Such contact can occur over a short period of time. For example, there may be multiple emails or persistent social media engagement over hours or days. Alternatively, an excessive level of contact can take place over a longer period. This may be the case if we receive repeated letters, emails or comments on social media or if we are sent a significant amount of information that is repetitive or irrelevant to the Inquiry’s work. We consider contact to be excessive when we have explained our position and made clear that we will no longer respond to the same question but the persistent or repetitive contact continues. Responding to such contact requires unreasonable resource and affects Inquiry colleagues’ ability to undertake their work.

In deciding whether someone has been unreasonably persistent, we will consider whether there is an unwillingness on their part to accept final decisions or communications from the Inquiry when all concerns and questions have been clearly responded to.


Aggressive, abusive or threatening contact

We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic caused people to experience difficult and upsetting events, and that people may be angry about the issue they are contacting us about. We do not view behaviour as unacceptable just because an individual might be forceful or determined. However, if contact becomes aggressive, abusive or threatening towards Inquiry colleagues, we must take action to protect them. This is not limited to instances in which there is a threat, or perceived threat, of physical harm. We consider this behaviour to include any contact, written or otherwise, which may cause colleagues to feel afraid, threatened or abused. Abusive behaviour can also include unsubstantiated allegations, inflammatory statements, threats, physical violence, swearing, personal verbal abuse, and derogatory remarks. We expect Inquiry colleagues to be treated courteously and with respect. We take a zero-tolerance approach to all abusive, aggressive or threatening behaviour.


How we will make decisions about these types of unacceptable behaviour

When deciding whether to implement this policy, we will consider the Inquiry’s duties and the need to direct resources towards fulfilling them, as well as the importance of ensuring everyone in Scotland has the opportunity to be heard by the Inquiry in relation to matters within its Terms of Reference.

All actions taken in response to unacceptable behaviour will occur only after careful consideration by a senior member of the Inquiry team.

Before implementing any of the actions outlined below, we will make all reasonable efforts to inform the individual concerned that we are unable to assist further and provide an opportunity for any such behaviour to change. We will also make all reasonable efforts to explain why and how this policy is being applied, and how this will affect any future communication with us.


How we will respond to these types of unacceptable behaviour

We aim to be proportionate in our response. The action we take may include one or more of the following:

  • not responding to contact which is the same, similar or related to previous contact to which we have already responded;
  • restricting contact, for example to a specific method or volume;
  • ceasing all contact and blocking the individual from communicating further with us; or
  • any other action we consider appropriate.

We will always tell the individual what action we are taking and why.


How we will respond to aggressive, threatening and abusive contact

If an individual’s contact with the Inquiry involves behaviour or language that could make Inquiry colleagues feel afraid, threatened or abused, this will be escalated to a manager. If the manager agrees after careful consideration that the contact is unacceptable, we will ask the individual concerned to stop the behaviour and inform them that we will cease contact with them if it continues. If the aggressive, threatening or abusive behaviour does not improve, we will consider taking the actions outlined above. Additionally, where there is a threat of physical violence, we may contact the police.


Right to request a review

While this policy does not provide an automatic right to review, we will usually consider requests for us to review decisions made under this policy.

Review requests must be made in writing with the reasons clearly stated. Please send your request to:


or by email:

Review requests will be considered by a senior member of the Inquiry team who was not involved in the initial decision. They may uphold, overturn or vary the initial decision. We will inform you of the outcome of any review within 20 working days of us receiving the request.

Where we decide to terminate all contact with an individual, we will offer no right of review. We will make this clear in our final communication.


Periodic review of decisions to restrict or cease contact

We will periodically review decisions made under this policy. We may also review a decision when we are given reason to believe there will no longer be issues relating to unreasonable demands or excessive contact.



Any decision made to restrict or cease contact does not remove our obligations under data protection legislation.