Our first two-monthly report on the Coronavirus Acts was published on 9 June 2020. As we set out in that report, and reiterate in this one, in seeking the Parliament's approval for the necessary legislation to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has been clear from the outset about two key points. First, that the legislation agreed by Parliament should be proportionate to the challenge and last only as long as required. Second, that the Scottish Parliament must have continued oversight of those provisions and hold Scottish Ministers to account for their use. This has continued to be central to the implementation, monitoring and review of the legislation. This second report covers the reporting period up to 31 July 2020.
Our first report was published a short time after the publication on 21 May 2020 of ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis’ (the ‘route map’). At the end of the second reporting period, we are now in phase three of the route map. Scotland has made major progress in tackling coronavirus (COVID-19) but now, perhaps more than ever, is a time of caution in choosing the next steps.
Our position has always been that creating additional powers does not automatically mean we will be required to use them and that decisions would be taken at the appropriate time, based on the situation here in Scotland and other parts of the UK.
As is demonstrated in this report, the powers in the legislation continue to be used proportionately and only where necessary. Some provisions have not yet been commenced as there has not been a need to do so, or have commenced but have not been required to be used in practice. In some cases, this is because these powers will be an important tool in supporting the lives and health of people living in Scotland, the economy, the public sector, and the third sector as we continue to transition out of lockdown. In other cases the powers are judged to continue to be necessary because they may be required in the event of any future resurgence of the virus. The continued necessity of the legislation will be kept under review throughout the reporting process.
The Scottish Government ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making’ which was published in April 2020 set out seven core principles across our approach to responding to coronavirus (COVID-19). One of these was ‘fair and ethical’: committing us to uphold the principles of human dignity, autonomy, respect and equality, as we deal with the pandemic. In continuing to develop our approach to legislation and reporting, human rights and equality impacts have continued to be a key consideration at the heart of this process.
We are committed to ensuring transparency in the implementation of and reporting on the powers in the legislation. We have therefore gone beyond the statutory reporting requirements, by providing additional information where possible, and particularly for the powers which, at this time, we have judged to be of most significant impact and/or interest.
Scottish Ministers will continue to be answerable to Parliament for how the Scottish Government is responding to the pandemic, including the use of statutory powers.
In addition to reporting on the Coronavirus Act 2020 (the ‘UK Act’) and the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 (the ‘first Scottish Act’), which were covered in our first report, this second report also covers the provisions contained in the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 (the ‘second Scottish Act’).
This includes reporting on the provisions under Part 1 of the second Scottish Act. It also includes reporting on Scottish Statutory Instruments (SSIs) made by Scottish Ministers where the main purpose relates to coronavirus, other than those made by Scottish Ministers under the first or second Scottish Acts or the UK Act, as SSIs made under those Acts are already included in our reporting.
This report also reflects the new duties set out in section 15A of the first Scottish Act and section 13 of the second Scottish Act, that requires Scottish Ministers to take account of information from the Scottish Police Authority or the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland about “the nature and the number of incidents of domestic abuse occurring during the reporting period to which the review relates”, and to explain in the report on that review period, how the information was taken into account.
Each of the Acts provide powers and measures to help protect the public, maintain essential public services and support the economy. These measures are necessary because of the unprecedented public health and economic challenges posed by the pandemic. The second Scottish Act, which is new to our reporting in this period, covers four broad topics – individual protections, the operation of the justice system, adjustments to deadlines for reports and accounts, and some miscellaneous measures.