What is a public inquiry?

A statutory public inquiry is usually set up and funded by government but is conducted as an independent body to investigate matters of public concern. A public inquiry is also expected to report on its findings and make recommendations for improvements in future. 

Public inquiries do not have the powers to investigate individual cases nor to determine any criminal or civil liability. Nor can they award compensation. Those would be matters for the courts. 

Public inquiries can only investigate the areas set out in their Terms of Reference, before publishing their findings. Final reports are passed to the government minister who established the Inquiry and then laid before parliament. It is for the government to decide whether to accept the Inquiry's recommendations and how to take them forward. 

The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry

The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry is a statutory public inquiry. That means it has been 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, these provisions set out the legal framework which governs the Inquiry.

The Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry is investigating the devolved strategic response to the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2022 and will present its findings and make recommendations to Scottish Ministers.