The Scottish Government want to make some of their emergency Covid powers permanent, which could include their power to restrict public freedom if required for public health

These powers give the Government the ability to introduce lockdowns and order schools to close. 

The public's view will be taken into consideration, with people able to share their opinions on the matter until November 9 when the consultation period ends. 

Here's what making these measures permanent would mean for Scotland...

What are the emergency Covid powers?

The UK Coronavirus Bill was introduced by the UK Government in March 2020 to give devolved Governments emergency powers to deal with the pandemic. 

From this came the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill, which helped the Scottish Government to manage the pandemic using legal measures.

According to the Government, some of these measures have brought a benefit to the lives of the Scottish people out with the pandemic. 

As a result they want to extend the bill to make it permenant, rather than temporary, with it currently due to expire in March 2022. 

Measures in the bill that the Government want to extend include:

  • imposing restrictions and introducing lockdowns if there is a threat to public health

This means the Government could impose restrictions on travel, social gatherings and the operation of retail and hospitality. 

It would also give the Government power to close schools amid outbreaks of Covid or future pandemics as long it is deemed "necessary and proportionate". 

  • changes to the judicial system 

This would allow for the early release of prisoners as well as the operation of virtual courts rather than in-person hearings. 

It would mean people could attend hearings online via Zoom or similar, as has been the case throughout the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, prisoners could be released early if Covid is causing a problem in the prison, but governors would be able to veto the early release of inmates if required. 

  • move to a more digital system

This would allow for deaths and still-births to be registered remotely, as well as council meetings and electronic court documents. 

What has the Government said about the proposal?

According to deputy minister John Swinney, some of the measures introduced as part of the bill have had a "demonstrable benefit to the people of Scotland", which is why the Government wish to make such changes permanent.

He said: "This is an opportunity to maintain changes that have been welcomed by people who now don’t want to lose transformations that have been innovative, beneficial, and increased access to services.

"While the pandemic has been incredibly disruptive, its urgency has forced the public services we rely on to adapt and continue and still deliver, driving the pace of digital adoption, and in some cases more efficient ways of working.

"As we enter the recovery phase, we now have a unique opportunity to reimagine how health and social care, learning and justice services can be designed and delivered around the lives and needs of the people who use them.

"I invite everyone to have their say on what this future should look like to support a fair, safe and secure recovery. Your views on these proposals will inform any future legislation to be brought forward on these topics for full scrutiny and debate in Parliament."

How can I share my views?

You can share your views by clicking here.

The consultation closes on November 9 so make sure to submit your responses before this date to ensure they are taken into consideration.