The Scottish National Party (SNP) has been accused of making it difficult for witnesses to give evidence in a public enquiry about the party’s handling of the pandemic.
The inquiry will take place on August 28 and will scrutinise the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic, focusing particularly on the health and social care impacts on people.
However, the SNP has come under fire for putting barriers up that will make it harder for people to give evidence at the inquiry.
The Scottish Covid Inquiry has said that they will not pay for travel expenses for people going to the preliminary hearings in Edinburgh.
The SNP will not reimburse travel expenses for witnesses at the hearings
Witnesses who watch the hearings virtually will also not be allowed to contribute to the debate.
On top of these obstacles, some are concerned about ventilation at the venue.
Campaigner and NHS whistle-blower Lesley Roberts described the expenses policy as “very disappointing”.
Roberts said: "Some of these healthcare staff have lost their jobs due to long Covid, they've lost their pensions. If you are a core participant in the inquiry then all your expenses should be paid for.
"The politicians will all get expenses but people who have lost their jobs and everything else due to Covid are being asked to pay out of their own pockets."
The campaigner complained that she would have to pay for the train fee, which she said some people would not be able to afford.
She speculated that the lack of reimbursement for travel will put people off appearing at the hearings and mean that the inquiry would only reflect what the Scottish government wanted it to.
"The lawyers have said they are trying to sort it out before the inquiry proper gets underway. I think they are trying to put people off who they don't want to appear at the hearings, leaving it open to the politicians to say what they like,” Roberts said.
Thomsons Solicitors told members of the Scottish Healthcare Workers Coalition that “we are very disappointed by the Inquiry's response. We will be asking the Chair on 28 August why the above matters had not been considered before the Preliminary Hearing."
Some are speculating the lack of travel expenses will put people off giving evidence
The solicitors are hopeful that expenses will be paid for before the October hearings.
In contrast, the UK Covid Inquiry will pay both hotel and travel expenses for witnesses and one friend/partner.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Covid Inquiry said: “The Chair to the Inquiry has a legal duty to minimise expense to the public purse. The Inquiry's current policy of not paying travel expenses to people attending a hearing in person is consistent with those of other public inquiries.
"The Inquiry does, however, pay legal expenses for core participants and others, where eligible, to ensure they have appropriate legal representation throughout the course of the Inquiry's work.
"People who are unable to attend the Inquiry's preliminary hearing, and future hearings, are invited to watch them via dedicated livestreams on the Inquiry’s YouTube channel, which will also be recorded and available on demand."