MSPs back legislative reform to support pandemic recovery.
Legislation to support Scotland’s recovery from Covid has passed its final stage.
MSPs voted in favour of the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill, which proposes changes in 35 specific legislative areas, many of which originated in temporary Scottish and UK Covid legislation.
The reforms include permanent public health protection powers, similar to those which already exist in England and Wales, increased protection for private rented tenants facing evictions, and a temporary extension of some changes in the justice system to help manage the backlog of court cases arising from the pandemic.
Deputy First Minister and Covid Recovery Secretary John Swinney said:
“While the vast majority of temporary pandemic measures have already been removed or will expire by the end of September, the passing of this Bill maintains those that will ensure we are better prepared for future public health threats, pragmatic reforms that have enabled more efficient or convenient public services, and some temporary changes to mitigate the impact Covid has had on our justice system.
“I am grateful to members and everyone who has participated in the Bill process for their feedback, which helped to shape significant amendments that strengthen parliamentary safeguards when it comes to the use of public health protection and educational continuity powers, and support for those experiencing financial difficulties.”
Measures in the Bill include:
- provisions that enable Scottish Ministers to enact measures via public health protection regulations for any future public health threats, bringing Scotland into line with England and Wales where similar powers are already permanent
- ensuring Ministers have powers in relation to educational establishments (schools, childcare, and Further and Higher Education), school boarding and student accommodation, so they can take action to protect public health and ensure the continuity of educational provision
- maintaining pre-eviction protocols relating to rent arrears in the private rented sector, ensuring that tenants have all the information they need about their rights, and ensuring that Tribunals are able to continue taking the circumstances of both parties into account when deciding whether an eviction is reasonable
- a temporary extension to statutory time-limits for criminal proceedings and provision for certain hearings to be held over audio or video link, to help manage the backlog of cases arising from the pandemic and ensure cases can continue to be heard, through greater flexibility in the programming of court and tribunal business
- adjusting the minimum debt level that an individual must owe before a creditor can make them bankrupt to £5,000, up from £3,000 pre-pandemic
- increasing the length of time people with unsustainable debt have to seek advice, without the threat of creditors taking action to pursue the debts
- increasing the sum of money a person can keep in their bank account when they are subject to debt recovery procedures
- giving licensing boards and licensing authorities the flexibility to be able to hold hearings remotely, or in person or through a mixture of both
- allowing local authorities to issue directions so that birth and death registrations can be done remotely, without the need to attend in person, unless those making the registration wish to do so
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