Emergency powers to come under the spotlight at Covid-19 Committee


The Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 Committee is set to take evidence on renewing the emergency legislation passed to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. The legislation, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts, will expire on 30 September, unless Parliament agrees to extend them. 

After electing Donald Cameron MSP as its new Convener yesterday, the Committee agreed to hear evidence from the Law Society of Scotland, the STUC and leading public health academic Professor Linda Bauld, as well as Cabinet Secretary Michael Russell, the responsible Scottish Government Minister.

Members of the Committee were unanimous in the view that while the pandemic presents an ongoing risk which must be guarded against, it is crucial that the legislation needs rigorous and proper scrutiny before any extension, including hearing from key stakeholders. Given the significant restrictions it puts on everyday lives, and the extraordinary powers granted to Ministers and authorities through it, public consent and backing, including political oversight, are key to its success.

Newly elected Committee Convener, Donald Cameron MSP, commented:

“This legislation was forged in the early days of lockdown, using emergency processes, to deal with what was a fast emerging and very serious threat.

“Rightly, since then it was been regularly reviewed and its use has changed, as we have been able to ease the very strict and blanket restrictions needed in the early days.

“As we near the six-month point at which the legislation must be reviewed, and the Government has announced its intention to extend its lifetime for at least another six months, it’s right we pause, listen to stakeholders, and reflect on whether we are happy to back the Government’s request, or wish to suggest further changes.”


It is expected the committee will hear from:

Michael Clancy, Director of Law Reform, Law Society of Scotland;

Professor Linda Bauld, Bruce and John Usher Professor of Public Health and Centre for Population Health Sciences Co-Director, University of Edinburgh; and,

Helen Martin, Deputy General Secretary for Policy, Political Liaison and Equalities, Scottish Trades Union Congress; on Wednesday 9 September.

It will then take evidence from the Cabinet Secretary the following week.

The Committee will then report to Parliament with a recommendation on whether or not to approve the renewal of the legislation.

Further information on the Committee’s work on these regulations, including related policy notes, can be found online here.

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