This is the eighth, two-monthly report on the Coronavirus Acts in which the Scottish Government sets out the status and operation of the legislation necessary to respond to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. This report is the latest in our regular reporting on coronavirus-related legislation to ensure that the Scottish Parliament has oversight of the legislation, allowing it to hold Scottish Ministers to account for their use of the powers available to them.
Continued importance of the Coronavirus Acts
Covid-19 is first and foremost a public health crisis, and the measures to combat it have been necessary to save lives. The measures introduced by the Scottish Coronavirus Acts were largely intended to ensure that public services could continue to discharge their duties effectively whilst adhering to public health restrictions in an effort to limit the spread of the virus. The Acts went beyond this and, for example, provided some protection from eviction for renters, provided for a Coronavirus Carers Allowance supplementary payment to those in receipt of Carer's Allowance, and ensured the Scottish justice system could continue to operate.
During the period of this report we have published an update to Scotland’s Strategic Framework which sets out a new strategic intent. Previously, our focus was on suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level and keeping it there to reduce the direct harm of the virus. But that emphasis has shifted and we have adjusted our strategic intent to one where we work: “to suppress the virus to a level consistent with alleviating its harms while we recover and rebuild for a better future”.
We will continue to develop future plans for the country as our collective endeavours to tackle the virus move through the next stages. As we continue through the summer we expect that individuals, businesses and citizens will be able to get back to much more normality. While we hope we are in the process of emerging from the pandemic, case rates at the moment underline the fact that this virus is still with us.
The Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 18 June and was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 24 June. The Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) Scotland Act 2021 will expire measures in the Scottish Coronavirus Acts which are not required beyond 30 September, while also ensuring that the measures we do still consider to be necessary are available beyond that date until the end of March 2022 (or end of September 2022 if extended).
The Act does not introduce any new measures or change any existing measures in the two Scottish Coronavirus Acts. It does not deal with any of the measures in the UK Coronavirus Act 2020 (e.g. emergency public health powers for dealing with coronavirus) and does not provide for any extension to public health guidance or restrictions on travel, as these are not legislated for under the Scottish Coronavirus Acts.
The Act does, however, in extending Part 1 of each of the Scottish Coronavirus Acts, mean that the reporting requirements in these Acts continue.
The Scottish Government continues to place great importance on responding to the coronavirus epidemic, and protecting the health of people living in Scotland.
Ministers’ Review of the Eighth Report - Statement by Ministers on necessity and status of provisions
This eighth coronavirus report covers the period from 1 June to 31 July 2021. Scottish Ministers have undertaken a review of the operation of the provisions of Part 1 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 (“the first Scottish Act”) and the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 (“the second Scottish Act”), and the provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the UK Act”) for which the Scottish Parliament gave legislative consent, in order to consider whether the provisions remain necessary. Ministers are satisfied that the status of those provisions at the end of this reporting period is appropriate.
Scottish Ministers have also undertaken a review of the Scottish Statutory Instruments (SSIs) to which section 14 of the second Scottish Act applies. Ministers are satisfied that the status of those SSIs at the end of the reporting period is appropriate.
I welcome this opportunity to continue to update the Scottish Parliament on the operation of the Coronavirus Acts and stand ready to engage with the Parliament in its scrutiny of this eighth report.
John Swinney MSP
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery