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 Public Inquiries in Scotland
Public sector

Public Inquiries in Scotland



Opposition politicians have recently called for a Public Inquiry into the Scottish Government’s delivery of two new ferries being built on the Clyde. Whether a Public Inquiry is required (or is advisable) will be a matter for the Scottish Government to now consider.

The Scottish Government has already established a number of Public Inquiries which are currently considering matters of public importance. These include the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry, The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry and the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry.

Public Inquiries can be very useful when examining how and why certain things have happened or decisions have been made. If you require legal advice, assistance, or representation relating to a Public Inquiry then Harper Macleod has a team of experienced solicitors who can assist you.

What is a Public Inquiry?

A Public Inquiry is a way of investigating and reviewing events (or a course of events) that may be considered to be of public concern. Public Inquiries are likely to consider:

  • what happened;
  • why did it happen;
  • who may be responsible; and
  • what could be done differently in the future?

Who is responsible for establishing a Public Inquiry in Scotland?

The Scottish Government are responsible for establishing a Public Inquiry. They do so by appointing an Inquiry Chair and setting the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference (what it will investigate).

How are Public Inquiries conducted in Scotland?

The Inquiry Chair, often a senior judge (or former judge) is responsible for conducting the Inquiry’s investigations and then producing its findings. Typically, the Chair’s instructions will be carried out by a team of solicitors and counsel employed by, or on behalf of, the Inquiry.

Who can participate in a Public Inquiry in Scotland?

It is for the Chair to determine who participates in a Public Inquiry. Whom the Chair considers to be appropriate will be determined by reference to what the Inquiry has been asked to consider (the Terms of Reference) and what evidence (or other contribution) the party under consideration can offer in relation to the work of the Inquiry.

What investigative powers does a Public Inquiry have in Scotland?

The Chair has power to require witnesses to attend hearings to provide oral evidence (or to produce a written witness statement) as well as powers to require the production of documents (from individuals and other corporate entities).

How does a Public Inquiry in Scotland report its findings?

The Chair will gather and consider evidence related to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference and then prepare a report setting out:

  • the facts determined by the Inquiry;
  • the Inquiry’s recommendations (if required); and
  • anything else that the Inquiry considers to be relevant.

The Chair delivers the report to the Scottish Government who are obliged to publish it.

How can we help you?

We are experienced Public Inquiry Solicitors. We can provide you with advice and representation in relation to Public Inquiries, including:

  • pre-inquiry investigations;
  • information governance processes (data protection and confidentiality);
  • document management and review as well as document preparation and presentation;
  • witness preparation and statement taking as well as witness support at hearings;
  • representation at hearings including the preparation of legal submissions;
  • reputation management;
  • litigation related to, or arising from, the work of the Inquiry; and
  • all other aspects of attendance at, or participation in, a Public Inquiry.

Please contact Jennifer Jack or Calum Gee if you wish to discuss any aspect of Public Inquiries in Scotland.


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Call us for free on 0330 912 0294 or complete our online form below for legal advice or to arrange a call back.

Speak to us today on 0330 159 5555

Get in touch


Get in touch

Call us for free on 0330 159 5555 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.