Members Of The Scottish Parliament Back Making Emergency Covid Powers Permanent

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Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) have voted to make some of the emergency Covid-19 powers permanent, including the ability to close schools and impose lockdowns.

Opposition politicians said the bill amounted to a “power grab”.

BBC reports: MSPs took five hours to debate more than 90 amendments to the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) Bill before passing it by 66 votes to 52.

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The bill proposes changes in 35 specific legislative areas, many of which originated in temporary Scottish and UK Covid legislation.

The reforms include permanent public health protection powers, similar to those which already exist in England and Wales.

Ministers will also have powers in relation to educational establishments so they can take action to protect public health and ensure the continuity of educational provision

There will also be increased protection for private rented tenants facing evictions, despite a warning from landlords that the new laws could cut the number of rental homes.

And it will grant a temporary extension of some changes in the justice system to help manage the backlog of court cases arising from the pandemic.

Other measures include giving licensing boards and licensing authorities the flexibility to hold hearings remotely and allowing local authorities to issue directions so that birth and death registrations can be done remotely.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “While the vast majority of temporary pandemic measures have already been removed or will expire by the end of September, the passing of this bill maintains those that will ensure we are better prepared for future public health threats, pragmatic reforms that have enabled more efficient or convenient public services, and some temporary changes to mitigate the impact Covid has had on our justice system.

“I am grateful to members and everyone who has participated in the bill process for their feedback, which helped to shape significant amendments that strengthen parliamentary safeguards when it comes to the use of public health protection and educational continuity powers, and support for those experiencing financial difficulties.”

Many of the proposals are aimed at future Covid-19 outbreaks – or the spread of any other infectious virus which poses a serious risk to public health.