Second Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill introduced

Second Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill introduced

Michael Russell

Emergency measures that aim to protect people facing financial hardship and allow public services to operate effectively have been introduced at Holyrood in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Key elements of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Bill include a proposed additional £19.2 million investment in carer’s allowance supplement, the introduction of notice to leave periods for students in purpose-built student accommodation and halls of residence, and additional protections for those facing bankruptcy.

If passed, the bill will raise to £10,000 the minimum debt level that an individual must owe before a creditor can make them bankrupt.

It will also raise the upper threshold for the availability of the minimal asset process (MAP) to £25,000. This means more people who find themselves in debt will be able to avoid a costly and lengthy bankruptcy process.

Together with the extended moratorium in the last act – which now gives people six months protection from their creditors while they think through their options – and the changes to the debt arrangement scheme made last year to help those people who can pay off what they owe, but need more time to do so, these changes will help ensure solutions are there for anyone pushed into unsustainable debt by the pandemic.

There are also recommended legislative changes in areas including non-domestic rates relief, proceeds of crime and the wider operation of Scotland’s criminal justice system. Notice to leave periods will also be introduced for students tied into existing contracts or those looking to enter into contracts for the next academic year in halls of residence and purpose-built student accommodation.

The new bill follows emergency legislation previously passed by the Scottish and UK parliaments to assist in the response to the pandemic.

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said: “The Scottish government is determined to do all we can to help individuals and businesses who are facing hardship as a result of this unprecedented crisis.

“The bill will help many people facing bankruptcy, adding to emergency measures which the Scottish Parliament has already approved.

“It will also provide Scottish Ministers with the power to introduce reductions in non-domestic rates payable during 2020-2021, and a wide range of changes necessary to support public services to continue to operate as they were intended during what are exceptional circumstances.

“Throughout this crisis we have tried to achieve consensus and will continue to work on a cross-party basis to enable the government to take the steps necessary to help Scotland get through these extraordinary times.”

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