Overcoming Coronavirus is a huge health challenge and the measures we must take to deal with it therefore reflect its magnitude.
As such, earlier this month, the Scottish Parliament unanimously supported new emergency powers to help protect the public, maintain essential services and support the economy during the outbreak.
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill adjusts the law on evictions to protect people renting their homes in the private and social sectors, as well as delivering new provisions designed to ensure essential businesses and our public services continue to operate.
The majority of the emergency measures enacted will expire automatically six months after coming into force. However, the Scottish Parliament may extend the measures for two further periods of six months, giving the Bill a maximum life of 18 months. The SNP Government will report to Parliament every two months about the use of these emergency powers.
The passing of the Bill means that regulations are now in effect to give Police Scotland powers to enforce it. Regulations require the closure of listed businesses and premises and those not complying can be fined. Police Scotland can also enforce rules on public gatherings and restrictions on people staying at home. Those found not to be acting appropriately can be directed to return home, or made to. Rules to keep safe are:
Stay local and don’t travel unnecessarily
Only go outside alone or with members of your own household
Stay at least two metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times
Gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces are banned
Take hygiene precautions when outside and wash your hands as soon as you are indoors
Those in breach could receive an on-the-spot £30 fine, increasing to £60 if not paid in 28 days. Penalties double for each repeat offence up to a £960 cap, with no reduction for early payment.
Due to their exceptional nature, regulations will be reviewed every 21 days to ensure they are still necessary. Nevertheless, they are undoubtedly extraordinary, because of the threat we face.
The changes we are all making difficult and very different to normal life. However, it is absolutely essential to adhere to them to slow the virus’ spread as much as possible. Exercise is extremely important for physical and mental wellbeing, so people can leave their homes for exercise once a day, with or without members of their own household. However, you should only be outside for a reasonable purpose – buying food or essential household or medical supplies; travelling to or carrying out essential work; exercising; or providing care or assistance to others. We must 'stay local' when exercising and walking dogs and avoid any unnecessary travel. People should not drive with the intent of doing exercise or walking their dog. Police Scotland will enforcing this.
This can all feel daunting but it is about saving lives and protecting our NHS. The SNP Government will remove these restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so.
The nation is pulling together during these difficult times. On the whole, people have responded magnificently as we all work together to save lives. It is in that spirit of co-operation and consensus that parties across the Parliament worked together to pass these measures. Scottish Ministers will continue to engage across the party divide to help us through the coming months.
Further legislation in relation to how Scotland’s court system will work during the crisis will be considered at Holyrood next week.
We must all play our parts in keeping everyone safe. Please stay in, look out for one another and keep well.