Coronavirus Acts: fourth report to Scottish Parliament (December 2020)

Fourth two-monthly report to Scottish Parliament on the use of the powers contained within the Coronavirus Act 2020, Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 and Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 covering the reporting period up to 30 November 2020.

3. Our approach to reporting

3.1. In continuing to develop our approach to reporting, we have recognised that some measures in the legislation may have greater impact than others in terms of their potential impacts on individuals or groups (people with one or more of the protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010), or their implications more generally for equality and human rights. Some provisions are of significant interest to the Scottish Parliament for other reasons.

3.2. In addition to the information on operation and status which is provided for all of the above noted provisions, we have also reported in more detail on those provisions which we consider to be, at this time, of most significant impact or interest. For these provisions in particular, we have gone beyond the reporting requirements under the legislation, for example, by providing detail on the factors which have been considered in determining the continued necessity. This is consistent with our approach in our previous reports.

3.3. Assessment of the equality, human rights and children’s rights impacts of the provisions is a central aspect of our review and reporting approach, and in developing our report we have again sought to examine these impacts. We have in this reporting period continued to reflect on the views and publications of key stakeholders with an interest in the areas of human rights, children’s rights and equality impacts. This has included, but is not limited to, consideration of the written and oral evidence which was submitted to the Parliament’s COVID-19 Committee in response to its call for evidence on the Scottish Acts extension and expiry regulations. We have considered the views of other stakeholders in this reporting period, including the British Institute of Human Rights, the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, and we also recognise the interest and views of the Parliament's Equalities and Human Rights Committee.

3.4. While it is the view of the Scottish Government that any remaining impacts on equality and human rights are currently justified and are a proportionate means of helping to achieve the legitimate aim of reducing the very significant public health risks posed by coronavirus, the Scottish Government also recognises that these measures are only required to respond to the current set of circumstances, and are only necessary as long as the potential public health benefits justify any negative impacts caused. The commitment to ensure that powers should not be in place for longer than they are needed was demonstrated in the decision to expire a number of paragraphs of Part 1 of the Scottish Acts which were judged not to be required beyond 29 September 2020 as part of the overall extension of the Acts, and to suspend other paragraphs of those Acts which are not currently required, but may be required at a future point.

3.5. One specific example of where human rights and equality implications have informed decisions on the continued necessity of provisions in the legislation was the decision to expire paragraph 11(1) of schedule 3 of the first Scottish Act relating to adults with incapacity. As set out at paragraph 19 of the Policy Note[7] which accompanied the expiry regulations: “in considering whether this paragraph should be expired early, the Scottish Government has examined very carefully the considerations in relation to human rights”. The expiry of this paragraph was welcomed by the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC), as set out in a written submission by SHRC to the COVID-19 Committee on 16 September 2020[8]. Other stakeholders have also supported the expiry of this paragraph. Prior to being expired, the paragraph had not been commenced and had not been in operation since the first Scottish Act came into force on 7 April 2020. This was reflected in the reporting on these provisions in our first and second reports to Parliament on the Coronavirus Acts.

3.6. We have also, in this report, included examples of how equality impacts have been, and are being, considered in relation to the implementation of particular powers, including the Equality Impact Assessments (EQIAs) which have been carried out for the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations from No.2 to No.13[9] and the EQIA for the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Scotland) Regulations 2020[10] as well as the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020[11] and the 5 sets of amending regulations made to them. This report also includes information on how the impact of the powers relating to evictions from dwelling houses under the first Scottish Act, and pre-action requirements under the second Scottish Act, have been considered.

3.7. We will keep our approach to reporting on these impacts under review in line with legislation and in response to the views of the Scottish Parliament.



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