Families who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 have welcomed a pledge from Nicola Sturgeon to involve them in a public inquiry into Scotland’s handling of the pandemic, in a move they hope will increase pressure on Boris Johnson to follow suit.
The Scottish first minister told the families in a private meeting on Monday that they would be “involved in setting the terms of that inquiry and invited to give evidence”, according to the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, which represents close to 3,000 families. She gave them an “absolute assurance” they will be involved.
The meeting came after the group issued an ultimatum to the prime minister last week that unless he sets out plans for a public inquiry relating to England within a fortnight, it will start legal action. Johnson has said now is not the right time.
The former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell has argued that a public inquiry should focus narrowly on government. He believes the impact of bereavement and issues such as access to dying loved ones should be handled separately.
“Now it’s down to Boris Johnson to do the right thing and meet with us,” said Jo Goodman, co-founder of the group. “If he won’t, the least he can do is get the ball rolling on a statutory public inquiry into his government’s handling of the pandemic in order to learn lessons and save lives now and in the event of future pandemics.”
The boost from Sturgeon came after Prof John Edmunds and Prof Andrew Hayward, leading government scientific advisers on the pandemic, told the Guardian they supported the idea, as did the former head of the civil service, Lord Kerslake, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Muslim Council of Britain. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have also called for a public inquiry.
Among the public, 47% want a statutory public inquiry, compared with 18% who oppose the idea, ICM polling for the Guardian showed this month.