Commission welcomes new Scottish COVID-19 inquiry Chair and commitment to embed human rights

The Scottish Human Rights Commission welcomes the appointment of Lord Brailsford as Chair of the Scottish COVID-19 inquiry.

We are also pleased the Terms of Reference for the inquiry will be changed to ensure it takes a human rights based approach, as announced by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

In December 2021 we called for more action to put human rights at the heart of the inquiry and specifically within the Terms of Reference.

We now look forward to seeing Lord Brailsford get the inquiry fully underway as soon as possible.

Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Ian Duddy, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic impacted on everyone’s human rights, bringing loss of life, bereavement, long-term health impacts and loss of livelihood for many, and unprecedented restrictions on everyone’s personal freedoms.  We know that some groups felt that impact more acutely and disproportionately than others.

“A human rights based inquiry means the lessons learned should be truly informed by those most affected, as well as international human rights laws and standards.

“We welcome the statement from Deputy First Minister John Swinney that there is now a joint commitment, between Scottish Ministers and the new Chair, that the Scottish COVID-19 inquiry will take a “person-centred, human rights based approach, to ensure that every person and organisation taking part can meaningfully participate, be treated fairly and be empowered to take part.”  

“We now urge the Scottish Government to ensure that the inquiry has all the resources it needs to fulfil this commitment, to establish meaningful accountability for actions during the pandemic response and to publicly confirm that it will respond in full to all the recommendations when they are made.”

The Commission has previously called for all the principles of a human rights based approach to be applied across the inquiry’s work.

While the Scottish Government’s recent announcement is a significant step, we highlight that to be truly informed by human rights, next measures should include:

  • Appointing a panel and/or assessors with diverse experience, reflecting those who have been most affected by the pandemic, and with expertise in a human rights approach and human rights standards.
  • Ensuring that people affected by human rights issues are involved in both the process of the inquiry and determining its outcomes.
  • Ensuring advocacy and psychological support for those particularly affected by the handling of the pandemic.
  • Giving a public commitment to respond in full to all the recommendations made when the Inquiry reports.
  • Taking all necessary steps to ensure accountability, by making sure that all public bodies and those carrying out public functions act in accordance with the principles of full transparency and cooperation in relation to the Inquiry.
  • Gathering evidence in relation to all of those with human rights obligations across the 12 strategic elements of the inquiry’s Terms of Reference, whether in public or private sectors.
  • Analysing evidence in terms of the disproportionate impacts of laws, policies and practices on different groups within the community, and compliance with human rights standards.


Notes for editors 

  1. The Commission first called for a human rights based approach to a public inquiry in July 2020, in the context of reporting on human rights in care homes. We reiterated this call in May 2021in a letter to Ministers. In September 2021, we submitted detailed advice to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the draft aims and principles of an Inquiry.
    In October 2021 we submitted 14 recommendations to ensure a human rights based approach to the Inquiry.
    In December 2021 we called for more action to put human rights at the heart of the Inquiry and specifically within the Terms of Reference.

  2. Find out more on the COVID-19 page of our website at