The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 ('the 2020 Regulations') provide that except to the extent that a person has a reasonable excuse, no person may leave the place where they are living. The Regulations set out that it is a reasonable excuse for the following people to attend a funeral service:
- household members of the person who has died
- close family members of the person who has died
- if no-one in the above two categories is attending, a friend of the person who has died
To date, the 2020 Regulations provided that a person responsible for a place of worship must ensure that the place of worship is closed for the duration the Regulations are in force. There are however exceptions to this closure. A place of worship could continue to be opened and used for:
- to broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast
- to provide essential voluntary services or urgent public support services (including the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions or support in an emergency)
Important note: The use of the place of worship for these purposes is only permitted, in each case, where a distance of two metres is maintained between every person on the premises (except where they are from the same household, or a carer and the person being assisted by the carer).
‘Phase 2’ and amended regulations
Under the Regulations to date, places of worship have only been permitted to open for the uses as explained above. These permitted uses have now been extended to include opening for individual prayer or contemplation.
The reopening of places of worship for individual prayer or contemplation is part of Phase 2 of Scotland’s framework for easing restrictions on lockdown.