I often find myself, subconsciously, splitting life into two nowadays. Before Covid, and after Covid. "I don’t think we’ve seen each other since before Covid, have we?" "It must have been four or five years since we’ve been to that restaurant – it was definitely before Covid." "This is the first time we’ve run one of these events in person since Covid".

And so on. It has provided a historical line in the sand, much like a war.

It is both inevitable and right that there are meaningful inquiries into the preparedness, the response and the outcome of Covid, both in Scotland and the UK. The terms of reference imply that this will be an inquiry of substance which will reach deep into the decision-making, and be unencumbered and unafraid.

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In practice, though, I must confess to doubts about whether it will really interrogate the biggest question of all: was lockdown right?

So far, the inquiries have been more dominated by gossip and sniggering about bad language, in the case of the UK inquiry, and missing WhatsApp messages in the case of the Scottish inquiry.

These common trivialities are actually interesting in themselves. In London, they have shone a light into the chaotic operation of the UK government under the premiership of Boris Johnson, a man who, according to the testimony of his own allies, did not have a skill set suited to a crisis requiring a detailed response. And who doesn’t like to hear new swear words that we had never previously used?

And in Edinburgh, they have deliciously weaved into the Covid inquiry the SNP psychodrama, with the revelation that former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has deleted some of her WhatsApp messages.

Much has happened in the SNP since Covid emerged in China in late 2019, and the publication of Ms Sturgeon’s WhatsApps would surely have been of deep interest to journalists well beyond those covering the Covid inquiry.

There is also an important discussion to be had about how politicians can have private conversations – which are the source of most of the good things government does – in the modern age. A WhatsApp is today’s equivalent of a quiet conversation in the corridors of Parliament, and I think it is important that politicians know this can happen without anyone finding out.

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However, none of this is the point, of course. The point is to ascertain whether we were successful in managing the most economically and socially disruptive peacetime event we will likely ever experience.

The early signs are dispiriting. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the inquiries are starting from the premise that lockdown was right and unquestionable; indeed that the only real debate to have is whether we did it early enough.

If, in the final analysis, that is the outcome of these expensive and emotionally draining investigations, they will represent not only a wasted opportunity but a dismal handbook for what to do the next time we are confronted with a similar pandemic.

The inquiries are right to hear the personal testimonies of those impacted by policy, as the Scottish inquiry is doing now with the relatives of people who died alone in care homes. It is difficult not to reflect on the decision taken by the state to prevent people from seeing dying loved ones, in care homes and in hospitals, as being frankly inhumane.

However, the most important service these inquiries can provide to the country is to focus on lockdown. Did it save lives? And, if it did, did it save more lives that it has, and will, cost?

The latter is complex, but worth investigating. Covid is a killer virus, but lockdown is a killer cure. Lockdown created a cruel isolation for older people, especially those who live alone. Covid may or may not have caused their illness or death, but by how many years has loneliness and depression shortened their lives?

How many people have died, or will die, from alcoholism and addiction developed during lockdown. Are those middle-aged people more likely to die from long-term physical and mental ill health than they would have been from contracting Covid?

How will the loss of education in a country already marked by tumbling academic standards impact children throughout their lives? Will they ever achieve their potential which, in national terms, becomes a question of stunted economic growth and lower tax returns? And how will the unnatural social isolation amongst children, and the ensuing epidemic of anxiety, social awkwardness and bad behaviour in school which those who work in the area know has occurred, manifest itself when those children are 20, or 40, or 60, or 80?

How many at-risk children, and indeed women, were abused at home because they were no longer able to access their daily safe space, whether that be school or work?

Let’s not pretend there was no alternative. Not only was there an alternative, we are now able to compare data. In Sweden, scientists held firm and refused to enforce a lockdown.

We like to think that we followed the science, followed the data. But we didn’t; the Swedes did. Because there was no data to support lockdown; no studies to support the presupposition that Covid would kill more people than lockdown would kill.

The Swedes – under a social democratic government – took mitigation measures, with an element of social distancing, an element of working from home, and an element of face mask wearing. But there was no lockdown. And no closure of schools, which the Swedes decided was too dangerous for children, and too risky for the economy and for the health service given the inability for the parents of those children to work.

This was met with international opprobrium and mockery from foreign state scientists and epidemiologists, including ours. They should not be laughing now. The Swedish death rate from Covid was only around two-thirds of ours, and was amongst the lowest in the European Union.

They followed the data and the start, and the epidemiology as the virus progressed, and now they are reaping the benefits.

Nobody in the Scottish or UK governments deliberately made bad decisions. They were faced with an unprecedented crisis and they listened to their experts. We have the right to know whether these experts were correct. And we have the right to be angry if these inquiries do not find out.

Andy Maciver is Founding Director of Message Matters and Zero Matters