‘Emergency’ Covid-19 measures - including lockdowns - may become permanent in Scotland

·2-min read
One man was arrested following the incident (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
One man was arrested following the incident (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

The Scottish Government has said it could make permanent legislation to close schools and enforce public health measures if it is hit by any new pandemics.

More than 30 “beneficial temporary measures”, described by deputy first minister John Swinney as “innovative”, could be retained to help unblock court backlogs and prevent a spike in homelessness.

Any changes in the law will mainly focus on digitising public services, the Scottish Government said.

It will also look to allow a wider range of health professionals such as nurses, midwives and paramedics to give vaccinations and immunisations.

Among the suggestions, ministers may make the ability to release prisoners early permanent as well as the ability to shut schools and impose lockdowns.

The UK coronavirus legislation will expire in March 2022 unless it is extended.

Murdo Fraser, the Tory spokesperson on Covid recovery, branded the decision as “rash”.

He said: “These powers were intended to be temporary measures to deal with the pandemic. The fact that SNP ministers are now seeking to make many of them permanent is a clear sign they are unwilling to give up their control over people’s lives.

“With the vast majority of Covid restrictions having now been eased, Scots will be asking serious questions over why these laws would need to remain in place permanently.

“It is a dangerous route to go down to allow ministers to implement sweeping powers upon society on a whim. The SNP already steamrolled an extension of Covid powers through Parliament and now they’ve snuck this consultation out while it is still in recess.

“They are clearly keen to avoid scrutiny over their plans, which would include releasing prisoners early and controlling how schools operate.”

But Ken Dalling, President of the Law Society of Scotland, welcomed the consultation.

He said: “As public health restrictions are lifting it is important to examine exactly what is in place and to consider where there are longer term benefits in continuing as we are, where changes are no longer needed, and where there should be additional measures to help support this next phase of recovery. The Law Society looks forward to considering and responding to the consultation in detail in the coming weeks.”

Latest figures show a total of 10,464 people have now died in Scotland with confirmed or suspected coronavirus, according to the National Records of Scotland (NRS).

Of the latest 41 deaths over the previous week, 13 people were aged under 65, eight were 65-74, and 20 were aged 75 or older.

There were five deaths in each of Glasgow, Edinburgh, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire council areas, with three in the Highland Council area.

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