CRITICISM is deepening over a controversial report which concluded that Inverclyde became Scotland's coronavirus capital 'by chance'.

A cross party consensus has emerged that the results of the health board report - branded as 'superficial' and a 'whitewash' - are unacceptable.

Labour's Stephen McCabe and the SNP's Chris McEleny are now demanding a second opinion from a completely independent probe into the causes of the COVID-19 death rate here which spiked at three times the national average.

Conservative councillors have also joined the chorus of concern.

Members of the governing policy and resources executive sub-committee unanimously backed the demand for a new probe - and pressure is now mounting on the Scottish Government to launch a root and branch investigation.

If health secretary Jeane Freeman doesn't commission such a study then Inverclyde Council says it will provide the necessary funds for it to take place and get to the bottom of how the deadly disease has claimed the lives of 116 local people.

The Covid Mortality Report produced by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde's John O'Dowd and John Burton concluded that Inverclyde was just unlucky, that the virus probably hit the district before other areas and that standards of healthcare here were not lacking.

Councillor McCabe said: "This is not the report that I was looking for, and it was me who asked for the report with the agreement of the committee in the first place.

"I think that it's a fairly superficial report, it doesn't come up with any lessons that we need to learn for the future.

"I think that the look at the quality of healthcare and focus on care homes is very cursory as well.

"With regard to care homes, I'd expect that to be a significant issue in any future public inquiry into this.

"But we can't wait until a public inquiry before we start to get some answers.

"That's why it's important that we get a separate report through Public Health Scotland, working with the University of Glasgow to bring independence to try to answer the questions that remain unanswered."

Councillor McEleny said: "I just don't accept that it was chance.

"The loved ones of people who have died deserve to know the answers as to how it came to Inverclyde.

"It might be uncomfortable but when members of our community are dying I think we need to speak uncomfortable truths and I think this was a whitewash report.

"This was a report written by people who had a policy locus in involvement and control of the virus.

"To an extent they've got to mark their own homework in how they handled the virus, so that's why I think an independently-commissioned piece of work would very much be welcome."

Councillors agreed unanimously for the council to write a letter in 'robust terms' to health secretary Jeane Freeman to commission an investigation which reports back 'timeously'.

Mr McEleny said: "I agree that the council should put in its own money but I also think that the government should be challenged to the extent that they would support this too."

Councillor McCabe said: "We need answers to some fundamental questions.

"How did COVID-19 come to Inverclyde in the first place?

"How was it transmitted in our community so that we ended up with an early spike and ended up as the area worst affected in terms of the number of deaths?

"I don't think this current report later answers those questions."

Senior local Tory David Wilson says he and his colleague Graeme Brooks 'support the observations' of council leader Mr McCabe.

Mr Wilson said: "Matters do not happen by chance or by bad luck and we need more information.

"Answers are needed to the reasoning of the Scottish Government in having, in March, 65 folk from the IRH and one from the RAH released from the hospitals to care homes.

"The NHS report does not give the whole picture."