THE SCOTTISH Government has been referred to the Lord Advocate over claims it failed to protect care home residents from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Conservatives have written to the Scottish Government’s chief legal officer following a BBC Disclosure programme which the party claims shows the actions by ministers at the beginning of the pandemic were in breach of key provisions within the Public Health Act 2008.

The legislation states that the Scottish Government has a duty to “protect the community (or any part of the community) from infectious disease”.

Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative health spokesperson, has written to the Lord Advocate outlining this potential breach.

In his letter, Mr Briggs highlights that “1,431 patients were moved into care homes between March and April”, adding that when Nicola Sturgeon was asked how many were tested for Covid-19 before being transferred, the First Minister told Holyrood in June that “we do not yet have the data that will tell us how many older people who were discharged were tested”.

In the BBC programme, Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, said: “I know of dozens of care homes who are convinced, whose staff are convinced that it was a result of a discharge from a hospital or an admission from a hospital that they introduced Covid into the care home.”

Mr Briggs’ letter stresses that Mr Macaskill’s account “indicates that Scottish ministers’ actions announced on the 17 March 2020, to reduce delayed discharge, have breached the Act in terms of ‘protecting the community’, community in this case being residential care homes, from Covid-19".

Yesterday, Ms Sturgeon was asked about care homes in Holyrood.

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She said: “I do not counter or challenge the suggestion that if we were to go back, we might, based on what we now know, do things differently. I am never going to stand here and say that it is not possible that mistakes were made – it is important that we are all open about that.

“However, I will always counter and push back against the suggestion that we did not take care, or that we did not do in good faith the things that we thought were right at the time.”

She added: “I deeply regret every death from coronavirus, but because of their frailty and vulnerability, I feel even more deeply about the deaths in care homes, as I am sure we all do.

“We in the government are already reviewing all aspects of our Covid planning, including the decisions that were taken on care homes, in order that we can learn lessons for what could become challenging in the months ahead—although, of course, we hope that that will not be the case.”

Mr Briggs said that the decisions and guidance issued by the Scottish Government in relation to care homes “had real and terrible consequences”.

He added: “The SNP government failed the residents, staff and families of our care homes.

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“Families across Scotland are now seeking answers as to what happened to their loved ones and what has gone so wrong in Scotland – that is why I have referred this to the Lord Advocate.

“It is vital that Nicola Sturgeon and SNP ministers are held accountable for these mistakes and for them to ultimately take responsibility.”