Scotland's Covid-19 inquiry will open on Tuesday as a leading barrister called on witnesses to speak with “absolute honesty” in order to learn “vital lessons”.
It will investigate the Scottish Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first phase of hearings will look at the impact of the pandemic on health and social care, with subsequent phases looking at education and young people, business and financial support and welfare.
The inquiry, which has so far cost almost £9m, has been delayed, including the resignation of former chairwoman Lady Poole.
This week the inquiry will hear opening statements from key participants as well as affected organisations, such as Scottish Covid Bereaved and Care Homes Relatives Scotland.
Inquiry chairman Lord Brailsford promised a “robust inquiry” into the impact of the virus and called it “the most serious health crisis in living memory”.
Acting on behalf of the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, barrister Aamer Anwar said the group welcomed the “long-awaited” start of the inquest.
He said: “The Scots Covid Bereaved welcome the long-awaited launch of the inquiry in Scotland.
“We ask all witnesses who appear at the inquest to speak with complete honesty and to be brutally honest, as without that honesty we will never learn the vital lessons to ensure that when the next inevitable pandemic comes, we are able to save thousands of lives and avoid the unnecessary suffering that so many have suffered in the Covid-19 pandemic.
“According to the National Registers of Scotland, as at 4 June 2023, there were 17,646 deaths in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
“Each of these deaths not only represents an individual tragedy, but has affected the friends and family, loved ones, of each of those who died.
“No person, no institution, however powerful, whether in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, Westminster or Holyrood, can stand in the way of this search for truth.”
Lord Brailsford told the inquiry in August: “I will conduct a robust inquiry without fear or favor that will get to the facts, identify any lessons to be learned and make recommendations for Scottish ministers so that we are better prepared in the event of any future pandemic.
“I will not take sides and will act in fairness to all parties involved in the investigation process.”
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) will be among those giving evidence on Tuesday.
STUC general secretary Roz Foyer described Covid-19 as “the most significant occupational health risk our country has seen for generations”.
He said: “This inquiry must begin with a deep tribute to every worker and their families for their sacrifice during the pandemic.
“On their behalf we seek to give them a voice and access to justice.
“Our testimony – shocking, personal and the words of the workers themselves – defines how abandoned workers felt during the pandemic and the incredible pressure they and their families felt.”