Module 2A of UK Covid-19 Inquiry Commences Public Hearings in Edinburgh - Sam Jacobs and Ruby Peacock act for the Trades Union Congress and Scottish Trades Union Congress

Public hearings in Module 2A of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry began on Tuesday 16 January in Edinburgh. Module 2A is concerned with the Scottish government’s core political and administrative decision making, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Sam Jacobs and Ruby Peacock are instructed by Gerard Stilliard and Harry Thompson of Thompsons Solicitors for the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC). On Tuesday, Sam gave the TUC and STUC opening, highlighting key themes of concern on which the Inquiry will hear evidence over two weeks. At the outset of his submissions, Sam drew the Inquiry’s attention to the plight of workers during the pandemic, and particularly to the disproportionate impacts of pandemic decision-making on workers who were already financially and socially vulnerable. 

Sam’s opening built on evidence that the Inquiry heard during Module 2, which considered political and administrative decision-making in Westminster. Sam framed the Scottish government’s approach to the pandemic as an “illuminating counter-point”, and remarked that governance in Scotland appears to have been “professional, mature, and open” in comparison to Westminster. Ultimately, it appears to have led to better decisions being made as the pandemic unfolded.

A key feature of the Scottish government’s handling of the pandemic was submitted to an attitude of social partnership. That included steady engagement with the STUC. It was also submitted that the Scottish Cabinet appears to have acted with an “important, basic professionalism” that was lacking in No. 10: he recalled evidence heard in Module 2 about Boris Johnson being internally referred to as “the trolley”, Ministers urging each other to “back the Gavster” [Sir Gavin Williamson) and Ministers laughing about “Hancockian timetables”. The differences in approach were exacerbated by the lack of consultation between Westminster and the devolved administrations, and in the evidence that the Inquiry has already heard about Westminster’s approach to attempting to achieve unity with Scotland (and Wales and Northern Ireland).

On Wednesday 17 January, Roz Foyer, the General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, gave evidence to the inquiry about the engagement and working relationships between the Scottish government and trade unions.