Swinney refuses to rule out Covid inquiry delay
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has refused to rule out any delays to the Scottish Covid inquiry after several lawyers and the chair quit.
Douglas Ross KC and three junior counsel sent their resignations to Lady Poole, the inquiry chairwoman, last Thursday before Poole herself quit the following day.
The departure of key personnel led Labour MSP Jackie Baillie to raise an urgent question in the Scottish Parliament today, which called on Swinney to explain if the inquiry would be delayed.
Swinney told the chamber: “The Scottish Government wants the inquiry to be delivered at speed, addressing the range of questions that people have, particularly the bereaved, so that we can learn and benefit from lessons as early as possible.
“This is why arrangements for appointing a new judicial chair for the inquiry have been taken forward urgently, to ensure a successful transition.
“The Scottish Government remains committed to the vital work of inquiry as the independent inquiry team and Lady Poole will continue as chair during a notice period of up to three months.”
However, Baillie pressed: “Lady Poole was appointed in December, the day before Baroness Hallett was appointed to lead the UK wide inquiry.
“The UK-wide inquiry has started and they've made clear that the people affected are at the heart of their consideration.
“Does the Deputy First Minister agree that it is the Scottish Government's responsibility to ensure that the inquiry system works and is adequately resourced?
“Can he tell me when the inquiry will start? When will it hear from the families in person? When will the inquiry report and what is the revised cost now and above all, how will he ensure that whoever replaces Lady Poole ensures that the families affected are at the very heart of the inquiry’s work?”
Swinney said the independence of inquiries guaranteed by the Inquiries Act 2005 prohibited the Scottish Government from interfering.