Let me open by saying that I am somewhat sceptical as to whether we will learn any substantive and new lessons from the two Covid inquiries. For one thing, I would argue that the pathways of enduring concern, such as the transfer of patients to care homes, are already decidedly well-trodden.

Still, to caveat that, it is probably valuable to have these topics drawn together.

With most questions in medicine and politics, there is no precise “right” answer in a given set of circumstances. Only judgements on balance.

For example, Humza Yousaf told the UK inquiry, meeting in Edinburgh this week, that there should have been earlier testing of asymptomatic patients being moved from hospital to those care homes.

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That judgement appears incontestable – although I suspect it will lead to further awkward questions for other members of the government in which he served.

However, it is also incontestable that there was, at the time, a genuine fear that the entire National Health Service would be swamped by Covid without urgent action. There is little validity now in dismissing that concern. It was real and pertinent. It was the basis for the transfer programme.

I commend the inquiries. Both appear well-motivated and well-structured, if a little too zealous in their pursuit of political minutiae in these early phases.

Equally, I am sure that the inquiry teams know they are dealing with studied reflections upon frenzied times; riven with doubt and anxiety for our political leaders. Alongside science, this is emotion recollected in tranquillity, to borrow from Wordsworth.

My second broad concern is that the inquiries can only deal with the particular nature of the hideous plague which blighted our planet, in its various ghastly variants. Any lessons drawn from that experience may not transfer to a future pandemic, should such an appalling prospect be imagined. Different virus, different conditions.

Consider this. What did we learn, as a planet, from the outbreak of Spanish Flu which killed millions a century ago, in the aftermath of World War One?

Do we, collectively, even recall it at all?

Despite my scepticism, I welcome the inquiries – although I wonder, in passing, whether the separate Scottish investigation is entirely necessary, given the overlap between endeavours pursued by the UK and Scottish governments. Still, let that pass.

The Herald: Nicola Sturgeon's former chief adviser Liz Lloyd giving evidenceNicola Sturgeon's former chief adviser Liz Lloyd giving evidence (Image: PA)

It is right, given the severity of the shock endured, to pause and consider. However, let us perhaps damp down our expectations.

I was particularly struck this week by two elements which emerged from the UK inquiry hearings. No, not the row over WhatsApp messages. Nor yet the industrial language deployed by Nicola Sturgeon in her critique of Boris Johnson. Although I will come to each of those points.

Rather, I would commend to you the statement firmly delivered by Lady Hallett, the UK inquiry chair, to the effect that she had quite definitely not reached any conclusions whatsoever – and indeed would not do so until all the evidence had been heard.

This, I am certain, was designed to quieten the social media storm, itself prompted by social media exchanges, present or absent. In essence, her message was: calm down. Good advice.

Secondly, I was inspired by the opening video, with contributions from Covid bereaved. Their plaintive pain could not fail to move. Some told of loss, of desperate loss. Dreadful, I know, but we can do little about that, except offer compassion. Others spoke of guilt. A feeling that they had not been able to offer support and succour to their loved ones, at the end of life. That they were thwarted by the system.

Once more, we have little remedy to offer. Nor do the inquiries.

As I have noted previously, these are not criminal trials nor even fatal accident inquiries or inquests. Others again cited the familiar issues which will arise. Those transfers to care homes. The rules on lockdown. The provision for disabled people and those with mental health problems. I believe the inquiries will address these topics – and others, such as school closures – in an assiduous fashion. I am impressed with their work thus far, while retaining scepticism that new insight will emerge.

But back to the controversies. Nicola Sturgeon will appear before the UK inquiry next week. Perhaps prefaced by a language warning. No doubt she will also be asked about the deletion of her WhatsApp messages. Much has been written and said on both topics.

Let me simply add one point. Which is that Humza Yousaf has performed an elegant gavotte to distance himself somewhat from his predecessor.

Firstly, he confirmed that he had handed over his own messages – while declining to answer for those who had not.

Secondly, he announced an external inquiry, noting with his trademark understatement that the episode had not been the government’s “finest hour”. Thus emphasising the gravity of the issue.

Thirdly, he told the UK inquiry that, as Health Secretary, he had perhaps pushed to go further than his Cabinet colleagues on anti-Covid measures. Let us not make too much of this. Mr Yousaf is very far from abandoning Ms Sturgeon. Indeed, he defended her when it was suggested that she had preferred to take decisions within a small group of advisers. He stressed there had been overall Cabinet sign-off.

Equally, he explained the comments about Boris Johnson as emerging from understandable frustration with the apparent determination of the UK Government to direct every endeavour, even over devolved matters.

Further, he stressed at various points that Scottish Government policy did not require the retention of all messages: just decisions and salient points. Expect that policy to be upgraded.

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Humza Yousaf knows – and Lady Hallett has reminded us all – that the final reports by the two inquiries will be founded upon a wide range of evidence. Not just missing messages and colourful adjectives. If possible, he wants those final reports to offer at most nuanced criticism of himself – and, of course, the government in which he served.

Me, I return to that poignant video evidence from the bereaved. To the ones who voiced anxiety about long Covid. To the quiet man who reminded us that Covid is far from over yet. Indeed, it is not.

* Due to a production error, earlier versions of this article said that the Spanish Flu occurred at the end of World War Two. It was, of course, as Brian originally wrote, World War One. Apologies.