A group of 15 civil society organisations, including the Consortium, has written to the Chair of the public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland, expressing their concerns with the inquiry’s current Terms of Reference. The aim of the inquiry is to scrutinise the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic, so that Scotland is better equipped to handle future pandemics.
In the letter, addressed to the Honourable Lady Poole QC, the civil society organisations highlight issues which they have discussed in previous meetings, including the importance of formalising a human rights-based approach within the inquiry’s Terms of Reference. Currently, the Terms of Reference state that the inquiry will only consider the impact of decision-making on European Convention rights ‘as the Chair deems necessary,’ which is a narrow approach to addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s human rights. It does not reflect the disproportionately negative impact which was felt by different groups and communities.
The letter also addresses the scope of the inquiry, and argues that it should be widened to include certain areas of law reserved to Westminster, such as the impacts of COVID-19 decision-making on asylum seekers and refugees.
Finally, the letter warns that should the inquiry not take a human rights-based approach, it would be incompatible with the Scottish Government’s goal for Scotland to be a human rights leader on the global stage. It has been signed by the following civil society leaders:
- Agnes Tolmie chair of the Scottish Women’s Convention
- Anna Ritchie Allan, Executive Director, Close the Gap
- Dylan Fotoohi, Director, Refugees for Justice
- Fiona Collie, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Scotland & Northern Ireland, Carers Scotland
- Gary Christie, Head of Policy, Communities and Communications, Scottish Refugee Council
- Jen Ang, Director, JustRight Scotland
- Jill Wood, Policy Manager Engender
- Laura Tomson and Rachel Adamson, Co-Directors of Zero Tolerance
- Maggie Lennon, Director, Bridges Programmes
- Mhairi Snowden, Director, Human Rights Consortium Scotland
- Naomi McAuliffe, Scotland Programme Director, Amnesty International UK
- Peter Kelly, Director, The Poverty Alliance
- Sanchita Hosali, CEO, The British Institute of Human Rights
- Sara Redmond, Chief Officer of Development – Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the
- Rhona Willder, Development Manager, Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance