Scottish Covid-19 Public Enquiry

A challenge has been opened on the Scottish Government’s ideation/crowdsourcing platform to gather comments and suggestions on the approach to setting up a Scottish Public Enquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland. Further information is below.

Setting up the Scottish COVID-19 Public Inquiry — Scottish Government Dialogue (

The purpose of a public inquiry is to:

  • investigate events causing public concern
  • establish the facts in relation to such issues
  • determine the explanations for decisions taken, and causes of anything which may not have gone as expected
  • consider if and how different outcomes could have been achieved
  • establish any lessons to be learned from what has happened
  • make any recommendations that the Inquiry considers appropriate

Please note that we are not currently taking evidence on behalf of the inquiry. Instead we are seeking views on the Government’s approach to setting up the inquiry.

What is the Scottish Government Doing with this Dialogue?

As one of several ways we are engaging with stakeholders and the public, your ideas and comments will help inform the suggested approach to establishing a COVID-19 Public Inquiry in Scotland and finalising the terms of reference.

The terms of reference, which will be set by Ministers, will detail what the Inquiry can and must achieve, for example:

  • its overall purpose
  • the particular matters to be determined e.g. whether the inquiry is being invited to review policy in a given area, or consider the facts of a particular case
  • whether it is required to make recommendations

A Scottish Inquiry can only look into devolved matters in relation to Scotland. The Inquiry will operate independently of government and we are engaging with people and their representatives to ensure its terms of reference cover issues that have caused concern.

The contributions from this Dialogue challenge will be analysed for a report that will be used by the Government as it carries out its work to set up the inquiry

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A few thoughts – probably most of this is obvious.

The biggest challenge will be to keep it a positive experience and not one of blame. Do everything you can to make that clear in the ToR.

This is about learning from mistakes so we can do better next time. That means we have to admit mistakes, and seek the root causes. What process gap or information gap caused the problem? One would hope that people could accept decisions were taken with the best of intentions at the time but I can imagine our main-stream media will have other ideas. I think that managing the media through the whole Public Enquiry will take more time and effort than should be necessary.

It should be data-driven, which means consulting with experts and decision-makers (and finding papers/notes from the time) to learn the facts. It also means listening to people to learn their experiences. It will be very emotional for people whose families had really sad outcomes, and difficult for them to accept that the bigger picture may have been well-served by a decision that caused them local harm. Ideally find experts who are experienced in making these trade-offs and who were not involved in the decisions at the time. That may mean going outside of Scotland?

Best regards,


Jean Ferguson


M: +44 7787 436 275

T: @ScotLeanJean