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by Margaret Taylor
22 June 2023
Sturgeon and Swinney to give evidence to UK Covid Inquiry

As first minister Nicola Sturgeon led Scotland's response to the pandemic

Sturgeon and Swinney to give evidence to UK Covid Inquiry

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon is among a group of Scottish ex-officials who have been called to give evidence to the UK-wide Covid-19 Inquiry.

Both Sturgeon and John Swinney, who was deputy first minister during the pandemic, will give evidence on 29 June.

Scotland’s former chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood, who resigned in April 2020 after breaching her own department’s advice on Covid restrictions, and former Scottish health secretary Jeanne Freeman will appear the day before.

The independent inquiry, which is being led by former Court of Appeal judge Baroness Hallett, was set up to “examine the UK’s response to and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and learn lessons for the future”.  

As it was established under the terms of the Inquiries Act (2005) Baroness Hallett has the power to call witnesses to give evidence under oath and to compel them to provide documents relating to the pandemic response.

It has already heard from experts including Sir Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London, and Katharine Hammond, the former director of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office.

This week former prime minister David Cameron and former chancellor George Osborne gave evidence on the contingencies their government put in place for something like a pandemic, while current chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who was health secretary prior to the pandemic, also gave evidence.

Matt Hancock, who had responsibility for health between 2018 and 2021 but was forced to stand down for breaching social-distancing rules, will also appear next week.

During his evidence Cameron defended his government’s austerity measures but admitted failures in his government’s preparedness for a pandemic.

He conceded that his government had been repeatedly warned about the pressures facing the NHS, but claimed that Britain had the financial capacity to roll out schemes such as furlough because the actions of his government meant the UK could “get control of the finances and increase funding for the health service at the same time”.

Osborne, meanwhile, rejected claims that his austerity programme left the NHS in a "parlous state" ahead of the pandemic.

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