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Nicola Sturgeon: Public inquiry will be ‘priority’ for SNP government

Sturgeon public inquiry
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon giving her latest Covid-19 update.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to establish a statutory public inquiry if her government is returned in May’s Holyrood election.

In a statement marking the one-year anniversary since the first coronavirus lockdown, Ms Sturgeon admitted her government “did not get everything right” in its response to the pandemic.

Addressing MSPs in Holyrood, the first minister said “lessons” must be learned including “reflecting on mistakes, the timing of the first lockdown, the decision to ease travel restrictions during last summer but it also includes ensuring that we are prepared for future public health emergencies too”.

On the public inquiry, Ms Sturgeon said: “Yesterday I met with representatives of families bereaved as a result of Covid-19, and I pay tribute to their strength and resolve.

“In that discussion, I acknowledged – as I have done before – that the Scottish Government did not get everything right in our response to the pandemic. I don’t think any government did.

“It is vital that we reflect on that and learn lessons, which is why I also confirmed that establishing a statutory public inquiry will be a priority for this government if we are returned at the election”.

In response to a question on border controls, Ms Sturgeon said one of her regrets from last year was that while the country was successful in driving down the virus over the summer, international travel was opened up “perhaps too quickly and too much”.

She said: “The reasons for doing that were not wrong, the industry was in dire straits and people wanted to be able to travel again but I don’t think, on reflection and in retrospect, that that was the right thing to do and I’m determined we don’t do that again.”

Create a ‘better future’

The SNP leader told MSPs the recovery from Covid-19 must lead to the creation of a “better and fairer country” as the “way in which people have been affected by the pandemic has been defined by the inequalities which still scar our society“.

She added: “If we can summon some of the urgency, resolve and solidarity we have shown in the face of the virus – and bring it to bear in tackling those issues and others – then we can ensure that we do not simply return to normal.

“We can create a better and fairer normality for the future.”

Nicola Sturgeon, left, Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, centre, and Scottish Conservative Ruth Davidson, right, with other MSPs and Parliament staff, observe a minute’s silence on the anniversary of the first national lockdown.

Missed vaccine slots

The first minister also used her update to confirm collective worship with up to 50 people will be permitted in Scotland from Friday.

In addition, the Western Isles will move down to level three restrictions from 6pm on Wednesday.

Hospitality is expected to reopen on April 26 and the government hopes to end travel restrictions across mainland Scotland on the same date.

Tuesday’s announcement will be the last time the first minister will give an update in parliament before the Holyrood election on May 6.

In the weeks ahead, Covid-19 updates will be “much less regular during the pre-election period” with decisions announced “as required”, the first minister confirmed.

Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson asked Ms Sturgeon about a report in The Scottish Sun that revealed that 60,000 Covid-19 vaccine slots were missed in Scotland last week amid delays in delaying vaccine letters.

Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader.

The first minister confirmed the Scottish Government is aware of an issue with the delivery of appointment letters in the early part of last week, with around 60,000 appointments not attended.

She said: “I have been given an assurance the issue has been resolved.

“We are trying to make sure we understand the reasons why people might be not attending for appointment, undoubtedly last week that would have been partly down to the issue with letters but there will also be other issues.”

Seven deaths of coronavirus patients have been recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours, according to the latest official figures.

There were 495 new cases in the same period with a daily test positivity rate of 3.6%, down slightly from 3.7% on Monday.

A total of 2,214,672 people received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination as of 7.30am on Tuesday and 235,671 have received their second dose.