An inquiry into the devolved aspects of the covid-19 response was an SNP manifesto commitment, and the Scottish Government have now set out their next steps. The UK Government have committed to a statutory inquiry into all key aspects of the UK’s response to the pandemic. As the Prime Minister has stated, we will consult the devolved Administrations before finalising the scope of that inquiry.
Throughout the pandemic, one of the most dangerous impacts has been not just that of the virus itself, but the impact it has had on our NHS in preventing life-saving operations from taking place. In Scotland, the situation has been made even worse through the Scottish SNP Government’s under-investment in the NHS, with over 450,000 people languishing on waiting lists prior to the pandemic, and that figure has now risen to more than 600,000. Will the Minister work to ensure that the covid public inquiry in Scotland will look into other aspects of the NHS?
The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight that the impacts of the pandemic are felt in many areas and in other parts of the health service, and there is a need to catch up with that backlog of missed operations and treatments. I am absolutely delighted that, yesterday, the Prime Minister set out very real progress and steps to make that happen, with additional spending in the NHS right across the United Kingdom.
I am very sorry to tell the House that Scotland now has one of the highest covid rates in all of Europe, with eight out of 20 hotspots across Europe being in Scotland, according to the World Health Organisation. Instead of learning the lessons of the last year, the SNP Government have wasted the summer months with the virus spiralling out of control. While the covid rate soars, the First Minister announced this week that Scottish civil servants will be tasked with drawing up arguments for Scottish independence. In the Minister’s discussions with the Scottish Government, has he discussed the issue of Scottish civil servants being diverted from crucial covid-19 response work to plans for another independence referendum, and can he confirm that this will form part of the covid-19 inquiry into the Scottish Government’s failures?
I am very happy to agree with the hon. Gentleman. Whether it is on learning the lessons from covid and making sure that our public services can catch up or whether it is on tackling drug abuse and a whole range of other public service and social issues, that should be the primary focus of the Scottish Government, not obsessing with another divisive referendum.