Six-month extension of emergency coronavirus legislation to be debated at Holyrood

Six-month extension of emergency coronavirus legislation to be debated at Holyrood

John Swinney

A six-month extension of emergency measures granted under the Scottish Coronavirus Acts will be debated in the Scottish Parliament next week.

The Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill will be scrutinised and debated by MSPs over three days from 22 June.

The bill removes a number of measures no longer considered necessary to support the ongoing public health response, and extends others beyond the original expiry date of 30 September 2021, subject to the agreement of Parliament, to 31 March 2022.

These include major changes to how the court system operates, as well as provisions to keep businesses and public services running during the pandemic and temporary changes to the law for debtors and tenants facing financial hardship.

Measures proposed for extension for a further six months include:

  • the ability for hearings across criminal and civil courts and tribunals to be held remotely
  • an increased notice period of six months to protect private and social sector tenants from eviction, up from the pre-pandemic 28-day notice period
  • an increase in the minimum debt level that an individual must owe before a creditor can make them bankrupt at £10,000, up from £3,000 pre-pandemic

Measures proposed for abolition include:

  • emergency operational measures in respect of Children’s Hearings and child protection to ensure that children’s rights have been protected throughout this period
  • ‘stop the clock’ measures on the duration of guardianship orders and certificates authorising medical treatment for adults with incapacity, as the normal systems for processing these resume
  • provisions requiring the Scottish Ministers and the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Scotland, to take steps to ensure couples could still marry or enter a civil partnership, now that local registration offices are able to re-open

The bill does not introduce any new measures. It does not cover travel regulations, which are a devolved public health measure, or lockdown measures, which are implemented by Scottish ministers, within the UK Coronavirus Act 2020.

Deputy First Minister and Covid Recovery Secretary John Swinney said: “The Scottish Coronavirus Acts contain provisions which make temporary adjustments to respond to the pandemic, and protect the health of people living in Scotland.

“We have already suspended or expired many provisions that are now redundant as restrictions have eased. However, to ensure those still required to protect the public and maintain essential public services can continue beyond 30 September, we have brought legislation forward to enable parliamentary scrutiny before the summer recess.

“This timeframe is necessary to give public services like the courts certainty ahead of the Acts’ original expiry date, taking into account the time needed for this legislation to come into effect.

“We will continue to report to Parliament every two months on the use of these emergency powers, and remain committed to expiring or suspending any provisions that are no longer necessary.”

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