This is the fourteenth 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 the Scottish Ministers to account for their use of the powers available to them, and is important as part of our commitment to transparency.
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 and livelihoods. 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.
In Scotland there are continuous signs that the increase in the current wave is slowing. The latest ONS survey data shows that currently in Scotland, the estimated number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is around 1 in 15. For many life has returned to near normal, however, the virus has not gone away and therefore we ask people to continue to take basic, sensible steps in order to protect themselves and others, particularly where the level of infection has risen. Thanks to the progress in vaccination and treatments – we intend to rely much less on legal requirements going forwards and much more on people and organisations taking basic, sensible steps to reduce the risk of and harm from COVID-19. This less restrictive approach will support the broad recovery and better future that we all want to see. We know, however, that the threat of new variants that are potentially more harmful remains, and that we must be ready to respond effectively to such an eventuality so that we can mitigate the harm that might otherwise be caused. The COVID-19 Strategic Framework was published in February and sets out our approach to managing the pandemic in the longer term.
Parts of both the UK and Scottish Coronavirus Acts expired in March 2022, and details on this are included in section 5 of this report. We continue to be committed to only retaining legislative provisions where they are necessary and appropriate.
As we move forward we will ensure that clear information is in place to help people and organisations make and sustain the changes required to reduce transmission of the virus on a routine basis. This will involve maintaining and enhancing some of the behaviours and physical adaptations that have helped reduce transmission and will help to improve public health more generally going forwards. More generally we will continue to work with sectors across the economy and broader society as we continue to mitigate the ongoing and accumulated harms of the crisis and, in parallel, as we collectively press forward with the recovery and transformation of our public services and rebuild for a better future.
Since the last report, MSPs voted in favour of the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill at its final parliamentary stage on 28 June 2022. This Bill proposes changes in 35 specific legislative areas, many of which originated in temporary Scottish and UK COVID-19 legislation. As part of learning lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bill will help build resilience against future public health threats whilst ensuring strong parliamentary safeguards. The Bill will also embed reforms in Scotland's public services and justice system that have delivered improvements for service users and improved efficiency. Furthermore, the Bill will continue certain temporary justice system provisions on a longer extension basis as a response to the impact of COVID-19 on Scotland's justice system. The Government welcomed all input on the Bill and will work constructively with stakeholders as it is implemented.
Laying number: SG/2022/135
Ministers' review of the fourteenth report – statement by Ministers on necessity and status of provisions
This fourteenth report covers the period from 1 June to 31 July 2022. The Scottish Ministers have undertaken a review 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, and will continue to keep this under review going forwards as we continue to move towards recovery from COVID-19.
The 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 continue to stand ready to engage with the Parliament in its scrutiny of this fourteenth report.
John Swinney MSP
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery
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