MSPS have unanimously backed emergency pandemic legislation that will hand more powers to ministers and police.

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill will protect tenants from eviction during the crisis, allow the early release of some prisoners from jails if staff levels fall dangerously low, and change rules for local authorities, including longer deadlines for planning and licensing decisions.

Ministers were forced to drop a provision that would have allowed the most serious legal cases go ahead without a jury.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said he would talk to stakeholders and bring a standalone bill to the Parliament on its first day back after the Easter recess.

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell, who introduced the legislation, said it was not a ill he would celebrate the passage of.

He told MSPs: “I don’t express any pleasure in having spent this day passing this bill, it would have been far better if none of us had been called to do so.

“But we have been and we’ve had to face up to our responsibilities.”

Russell added: “We have a job, as leaders, political leaders, leaders in our community, to encourage, to support, to guide, to legislate and at the end of the day to work alongside our fellow citizens so that we can come through this challenge together.”

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “We are in exceptional times. I never want to see again a situation where we are having to deal with legislation like this, responding to a crisis of this nature.

“There’s a huge impact on people’s lives, a huge impact on their health, a huge impact on the health service, and we’re already seeing a huge impact on the economy.

“And who knows what the consequences of all this will be?”

Scottish Green MSP John Finnie described the bill overall as being a “proportionate” response to the Covid-19 crisis. He hailed the “ordinary people” helping in the response to the disease, praising “the people who drive our buses, the people who clean our hospitals, our shop workers”.

Finnie said: “There is maybe hope going forward that there is a greater level of appreciation (of them).”

Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton said the ditching of plans to end jury trials had shown “that Parliament still matters”.

He added: “That is a really important message to send out to the people we all represent, that even at a time of crisis we still have a functioning legislature which knows how to exercise its function.”

There was a clash over plans to extend the amount of time for Freedom of Information requests take to be carried out.

Currently public bodies have 20 working days to respond to requests for information. The Scottish Government’s legislation initially extended that to 60 days.

Opposition MSPs made four amendments to have the changes struck off, but each time those attempts were put to the vote it led to a tie, with 41 MSPs voting in favour and 41 voting against.

Holryood rules meant that the Presiding Officer then cast his deciding vote against the amendments.

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