This is the ninth, 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.
During the period of this report, on 9 August, we moved beyond Level 0. This signified a key step in our progress out of the pandemic, allowing individuals and businesses to get back to something much more like normality. From that date, physical distancing was no longer required by law outdoors or indoors; there were no longer limits on indoor household gatherings of family and friends; and all venues were legally allowed to open.
However, Covid-19 has not gone away, and it has been necessary to retain some safeguards for now. Although infection levels fell towards the end of the second part of this reporting period, case rates remain significant, and positive infection rates still matter as a criteria for assessing the threat from the virus. With every infection the risk of new variants emerging and resisting the vaccines increases, and that is why we continue to take a necessarily cautious approach to easing of restrictions. This is why we have chosen to retain a number of baseline measures necessary to reduce the risk of transmission, including a legal requirement for face coverings in indoor public places and on public transport, subject to exceptions. This is why some provisions within these Acts are necessary while the virus continues to present a risk to public health. This is in line with our commitment that we will only retain legislative provisions under these Acts where these are both necessary and proportionate.
In our last report, I noted that the Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Act 2021 had been passed by the Scottish Parliament and would be expiring measures in the Scottish Coronavirus Acts which are not required beyond the end of 30 September 2021. This report records which of these provisions have now expired. The Act has also ensured that the remaining provisions in Part 1 of each of the Scottish Coronavirus Acts are extended until the end of March 2022 with the possibility of further extension to the end of September 2022 (if needed and subject to Parliamentary approval).
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 Ninth Report - Statement by Ministers on necessity and status of provisions
This ninth coronavirus report covers the period from 1 August to 30 September 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 continue to stand ready to engage with the Parliament in its scrutiny of this ninth report.
John Swinney MSP
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery
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