Emergency Powers to Come Under The Spotlight at Covid-19 Committee

The Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 Committee is set to take evidence on renewing the emergency legislation passed to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The legislation, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts, will expire on 30 September, unless Parliament agrees to extend them.

After electing Donald Cameron MSP (pictured) as its new Convener, the Committee agreed to hear evidence from the Law Society of Scotland, the STUC and leading public health academic Professor Linda Bauld, as well as Cabinet Secretary Michael Russell, the responsible Scottish Government Minister.

Members of the Committee were unanimous in the view that while the pandemic presents an ongoing risk which must be guarded against, it is crucial that the legislation needs rigorous and proper scrutiny before any extension, including hearing from key stakeholders.

Given the significant restrictions it puts on everyday lives, and the extraordinary powers granted to Ministers and authorities through it, public consent and backing, including political oversight, are key to its success.

Newly elected Committee Convener, Donald Cameron MSP, commented:

“This legislation was forged in the early days of lockdown, using emergency processes, to deal with what was a fast emerging and very serious threat.

“Rightly, since then it was been regularly reviewed and its use has changed, as we have been able to ease the very strict and blanket restrictions needed early on.

“As we near the six-month point at which the legislation must be reviewed, and the Government has announced its intention to extend its lifetime for at least another six months, it’s right we pause, listen to stakeholders, and reflect on whether we are happy to back the Government’s request, or wish to suggest further changes.”