Recommendation to extend Covid emergency laws approved by Scottish committee

The Scottish Parliament's Covid-19 committee has voted to approve a motion to recommend the extension of emergency coronavirus legislation by another six months.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 1:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th March 2021, 1:20 pm

The committee voted seven to two in favour of recommending the Coronavirus Scotland Act expiry and suspension regulations be extended, despite opposition from the Scottish Conservatives.

Convenor Donald Cameron, along with fellow Conservative Maurice Corry, voted against the motion, saying that he believed the extension should be left to a new government to decide in May.

Mr Cameron said: “I make these comments from a party perspective. I am troubled by the extension of the emergency legislation for a further six months.

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Mike Russell said he was 'very disappointed' that the Scottish Conservatives did not back the motion.

"I say that in full recognition that the Scottish Government have taken a constructive approach to these matters and have, for example, expired some redundant provisions.

"Last week, we had some powerful evidence at this committee from Inclusion Scotland, representing disabled groups and the Scottish Police Federation, who from very different perspectives were of the view that instead of simply extending the legislation, we should take stock and I agree with that.

"A full year has passed and so much has happened within that time and I think it is correct to analyse what has worked and what has not worked, especially in the light of the impact of emergency legislation on civil liberties and human rights.

“None of us want emergency legislation to persist. When a new Parliament is elected and a new administration is formed, it is likely will continue to suppress the virus, we will be much further along in terms of vaccination and hopefully the virus will be in full retreat and, accordingly, we should be in a much less restricted position in terms of our every day lives.”

Mr Cameron added: “In my view it would be right for a new administration, with an electoral mandate, at that point to decide whether emergency legislation is required and, if so, in what form.”

The current regulations are time limited and are due to expire on March 31. They were originally brought in shortly after the first coronavirus lockdown last year.

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External affairs minister Michael Russell said he was “very disappointed” the Scottish Conservatives did not back the motion.

"What the proposal from the Scottish Conservatives is to leave Scotland without the defence which comes with these regulations,” he said.

"I think this is a foolish thing to do and it is letting the people of Scotland down.”

He added: “In taking the decision to extend both acts, we give careful consideration to the requirement balance, the needs of many stakeholders and partners who wish to see the powers remain available against the commitment that was given when the acts were introduced, that provisions would not remain in place unless that was necessary.

"I believe the approach we have taken is proportionate and appropriate to the scale of the ongoing risk posed by coronavirus.”

Mr Russell said an extension now did not mean that all provisions covered by the extension would remain in place until September 30.

He said the Scottish Government would keep the “continued necessity” of the provisions under review every two months and that a new government could take a different position, which could be recommended to Parliament.

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