Coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery - public health, public services and justice system reforms: consultation analysis

Independent analysis of the responses to the consultation on supporting Scotland's recovery from coronavirus. This relates to the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill.

Consistent themes of opposition to proposals put forward in the consultation document

The consultation proposals generated opposition for a variety of reasons. During the analysis it became evident that a significant proportion of the opposition centred on a small number of themes which were seen consistently in responses across the questions.

In this analysis, it emerged that 71 individual respondents repeated their response regardless of the question; they gave the same or a very similar open comment in more than 20 of the 43 consultation questions, often using consistent reasons for opposition; 12 gave the same response 40 times or more. These 71 respondents left 2,454 open comments – i.e. 3% of respondents contributed 22% of comments.

These responses all represent a valid view; no responses were excluded because they were outwith the scope of the consultation. However, because of the more general nature of the opposition, and to avoid repetition in the report, these themes are summarised below. Themes are presented in descending order, from most to least prevalent. Any general comments which expressed views linked to the consultation proposals were coded and included in the analysis of responses which aligned with these issues.

Abuse of power

Respondents widely criticised the use of, and desire to extend, emergency powers, and argued the process was undemocratic. Phrases such as ‘power grab’, ‘over-reach’ and ‘abuse of power’ were widely used, and the Scottish Government was described as authoritarian or dictatorial in its control of the population.

“I believe this is a blatant abuse of power and must be resisted at every level of society.” (Individual)

“This has nothing to do with public health. It is about control, avoiding scrutiny in parliament and ruling by decree. It is authoritarian.” (Individual)

“Enacting a law of this kind is a step toward or actual confirmation of totalitarian dictatorship ruling by decree.” (Individual)

Emergency powers should not be made permanent

Respondents reiterated that the original legislation and the powers it conferred were only temporary to deal with the challenges created by the pandemic. As such, there were calls for the temporary powers to end and not be extended or made permanent.

“We were promised that these temporary powers would be removed when this emergency was over. To make these powers permanent is a total betrayal of the promise.” (Individual)

“The pandemic was an emergency situation and should be treated as such. These powers are not required on a permanent basis.” (Individual)

Should be voted on

Another theme was that the temporary powers should not simply be extended without some form of scrutiny. The discussion of options for scrutiny varied, but typically included a vote in the Scottish Parliament, by consultation, or a vote among the general public.

Return to normal

Calls for Scotland to return to normal was a consistent theme. Most of these statements asked for a return to life as it was before the pandemic; people felt they should be able to move on and make their own decisions. A few respondents gave more detail, for example suggesting the end to restrictions. A very small number noted that there was value in continuing to protect vulnerable groups.

“We need to move on in life and return to a normal way of life before even that is forgotten.” (Individual)

“The country needs to get back to normal and not have the threat of more control hanging over us.” (Individual)

Covid is not a valid justification

A variety of comments questioned whether Covid should be used as a reason to extend the provisions. Some respondents either queried the existence of Covid, calling it a fraud and a hoax, or likened it to flu or other respiratory viruses. Others felt the pandemic was either over a long time ago, was becoming endemic, or was no longer a public health emergency due to the vaccination programme. In all cases, respondents felt that there was no reason for the provisions to continue.

“You have to treat this like any seasonal issues we need to move on and get back to normal you can’t go on destroying people’s lives and businesses like you have done the past 18 months.” (Individual)

“It really is quite simple: we are already transitioning from the pandemic phase to an endemic phase with a level of risk and health service burden similar to that of all other respiratory viruses.” (Individual)

Breaches of human rights

Across responses to the consultation questions, there were broad comments about how Covid restrictions had eroded freedoms and civil liberties; that the Government has too much control over the rights of the population; and that body autonomy and the Nuremberg Code were being breached by the vaccination programme. Many called for these rights and freedoms to be restored.

“Let public get full freedoms back and stop the government ever controlling us like this again. We are free people in a free country.” (Individual)

“The whole process is an impingement on human rights and has removed individual choice.” (Individual)

Opportunities to enact again

Respondents highlighted that the emergency provisions had been created and legislated quickly when needed for the pandemic. They argued there was no need to extent the provisions because, should a similar need arise in the future, relevant temporary powers could be reinstated or created again using the same processes.

General criticism of Scottish Government

These comments questioned the competency or trustworthiness of The Scottish Government, or the SNP.

Use separate legislation

Respondents who raised this issue felt that if there was a genuine need to make the changes under consideration, they should be addressed by introducing legislation specifically for each topic. They believed it was inappropriate to make the proposed changes under the scope of Covid legislation. This would also mean the usual level of legislative scrutiny would be applied.

Calls for further review and consideration

Comments under this theme varied. Most called for further investigation of the impact of the provisions to date, so that these could be fully assessed before any extension. There were also a small number of calls for a review or public enquiry into the pandemic response.

General criticism of response to Covid

In a small number of general comments, respondents expressed a view that the national response to the pandemic had been wrong, contradictory or unsuccessful. A few also gave examples of other countries where restrictions had or had not been imposed.

Not required

Under this theme, respondents argued that legislation was not required. In these comments, respondents described how existing legislation could manage public health, or that the public does not need legislation to guide their daily lives.

Don't interfere

A relatively small proportion of respondents called for the public, individuals, young people and businesses to be left alone and to end Government interference.



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