Expiry and extension of measures to be scrutinised by Parliament.
A six-month extension of emergency measures granted under the Scottish Coronavirus Acts will be debated in Parliament next week.
The Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill was formally introduced to the Scottish Parliament today and 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 expiry 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.”
The Bill proposes the expiry of 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, to 31 March 2022, subject to the agreement of Parliament.
The Bill does not introduce any new measures or modify any existing measures in the first two Scottish Acts. It does not deal with any of the measures in the UK Covid Act (e.g. lockdown powers) and does not provide for any extension to public health guidance or restrictions on travel, as these are not legislated for under the Scottish Acts.
This Bill continues the existing reporting requirements in the first two Scottish Acts, and gives the Scottish Parliament the power to extend the Scottish Acts for a further six months to 30 September 2022 if necessary.
Powers granted under the UK Coronavirus Act 2020 remain available to the Scottish and UK governments until their current expiry date of 25 March 2022.
Provisions that have already been expired or suspended under the Scottish Acts included the protection of advance notices in conveyancing while the Land Register of Scotland and the Register of Sasines were not fully open, and the extension of certain business improvement district partnerships to 31 March 2021.