Scottish Covid inquiry: Legal team resignations will feed scepticism about public inquiries in Scotland – Scotsman comment

The revelation that four members of the Scottish Covid inquiry’s legal team have resigned – in addition to its chair, Lady Poole – is deeply alarming.

High Court judge Lady Poole stepped down from the Scottish Covid inquiry a day after four members of the legal team quit
High Court judge Lady Poole stepped down from the Scottish Covid inquiry a day after four members of the legal team quit

She was said to have quit on Friday for “personal reasons”, but it has only now emerged that the lead counsel and three junior counsels also resigned on Thursday.

It seems highly unlikely that five people would have quit this most important inquiry for five entirely different sets of personal reasons within 24 hours of each other, suggesting a wider problem. What that problem was remains a mystery.

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Lawyer Aamer Anwar, who represents the Scottish chapter of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said the inquiry looked “like a sinking ship”, adding that families felt “betrayed”.

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, Jackie Baillie, questioned why MSPs were not told of the four legal team resignations when news of Lady Poole's decision was released by the Scottish Government. “Some more cynical than I might say that there's a pattern of secrecy here,” she said.

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Deputy First Minister John Swinney insisted there had been “absolutely no political interference” in the inquiry but he should be under no illusions that cynicism about official investigations into government actions in Scotland is growing, particularly with the Edinburgh tram inquiry now in its ninth year.

The Scottish Government must do everything in its power to ensure the inquiry gets underway as speedily as possible and that its independence is beyond doubt.

With experts predicting more pandemics to come, we urgently need to learn the lessons of our response to Covid. Lives may well depend upon it.

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