Scottish Parliament backs new Covid-19 restrictions

By Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter
·4-min read

MSPs have voted to support new Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland, including tougher measures in 11 council areas and a travel ban for the worst-hit areas.

On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that areas of west and central Scotland would be moved from Level 3 to Level 4 from Friday for three weeks, which would see non-essential shops and hospitality businesses close along with gyms and beauty salons.

Guidance which asked Scots to avoid travel into or out of Level 3 or Level 4 areas will also be put into law, with a £60 fine levied against those who break the rules.

MSPs voted by 99 to 23 to back the restrictions.

The parliamentary debate was not to approve or reject the changes, but to express the support of the parliament for the regulations.

An amendment by the Conservatives, which was voted down by 71 votes to 51, called for the Scottish Government to publish evidence for the move into the highest level of restrictions.

Scottish Labour attempted to amend the Government motion to strip away the travel ban and push for mass testing and improvements to Test and Protect, but MSPs rejected the amendment by 99 to 22.

A Green amendment pushing the Scottish Government to improve support for self isolating people also passed unanimously.

Closing the debate, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Despite some of the differences of opinion that have been shared this afternoon, I am in no doubt … we all have a shared objective of seeking to suppress the virus as best we can and to manage our country through the course of this pandemic as best we can.”

Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “We have not yet heard of the justification for maintaining a Level 4 lockdown for three weeks and the Scottish Government has not shared any evidence as to why that particular length of time.

“I wonder if they would commit to that three-week time span as an absolute maximum period and enshrining that end date in law.”

Mr Cameron also pointed out there has been a ban in Glasgow, East Renfewshire and West Dunbartonshire on household mixing since September 1.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie fought back tears as he paid tribute to those, including his own mother, who had volunteered for vaccine trials, whom he said had put themselves on the “biological front line” to the applause of fellow MSPs.

He added: “We should pay immense respect to those many people, because if we as a parliament can show the same selflessness in the way that we do our work to keep our country safe as they have shown, we’ll be not doing too badly.”

The Transport Secretary thanked Mr Harvie’s mother in his closing speech.

Labour leader Richard Leonard railed against the travel restrictions which will be brought in on Friday by regulation.

He said: “This Government travel ban looks like a poorly conceived and ill-considered piece of legislation rather than the evidence-based intervention we need.

“It risks uneven application and, as a result, uneven treatment across Scotland and the risk is this uncertainty will eat away at the trust of the public.”

Willie Rennie in Holyrood
The Lib Dem leader said the Scottish Government did not efficiently use time in the summer when prevalence was low (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie looked back to the summer, where Scotland saw several weeks without a single death of someone confirmed to have coronavirus, claiming that the work was not done during this time, including the testing of people without symptoms, to ensure these restrictions would not be necessary.

He said: “The Government opposed – and I use that word wisely – mass asymptomatic testing, they believed that a negative test would make people relax and ignore the rules.”

Mr Rennie said that the Scottish Government did not increase testing capacity as a result of this, but praised that ministers now agree asymptomatic testing is necessary, adding that they are now “rushing to catch up”.