The Scottish government has made public a set of proposals to make some of the Covid-19 emergency powers permanent, including the ability to impose lockdowns.
Currently, through emergency powers that have been granted to the Scottish National Party (SNP), led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, they are able to enact temporary laws forcing businesses and schools to close, as well as release prisoners from incarceration early, if ministers deem the cause “necessary and proportionate.”
The government has proposed that Scottish ministers should be given “the same powers to protect the people of Scotland from any incidence or spread of infection or contamination, which presents or could present significant harm to human health in Scotland, not just COVID.”
A new consultation has been established to “seek the public’s views” on extending ta host of ministerial powers in relation to public health measures far beyond their March 2022 expiration, with proposals such as “prohibiting or limiting numbers at gatherings, introducing lockdown measures, and requiring that face coverings are worn” set to become a permanent part of Scottish public life.
John Swinney, Scotland’s deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for Covid recovery, announced that some measures should be kept “where there is demonstrable benefit to the people of Scotland.”
“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 service,” Swinnney said. The consultation is to last 12 weeks, closing on 9th November.
Ministers are looking at whether new legislation should be passed to make some of the ministerial powers permanent.
Most of the proposals are aimed at future Covid-19 outbreaks or the spread of any other infectious virus that poses a risk to public health. The government’s consultation said this would mean “ministers can respond effectively and rapidly to any future threats to public health in Scotland.”
Under the guise of attempting to “protect Scotland against future public health threats,” the government has sought to enshrine “powers to make directions to close educational establishments” that would allow legislators to close schools during the remainder of the pandemic and at any future date in which keeping them open is deemed a threat to public health by the chief medical officer.
The consultation document stated: “In the event of a future pandemic, the broad nature of the powers will provide ministers with the flexibility to take the action needed to address the specific circumstances of the health emergency.”
Additionally, the proposed plans involve the continued ability to permit the early release of prisoners and allowing people to take part in court cases remotely. The consultation has also suggested a permanent move to digital options such as the remote registration of deaths or stillbirths, council meetings and electronic court documents.
The government said that it would be “prudent to extend the powers” established towards the start of the pandemic so ministers can choose “to order the release of groups of prisoners” to alleviate pressure on the prisoner system.
Furthermore, the government has proposed that the relaxation on those who are permitted to administer Covid-19 vaccines should be extended indefinitely. If continued, this would allow “nurses, midwives and paramedics” to be enlisted as vaccinators for the Covid-19 vaccines and other routine vaccinations, such as those the flu, “to make it easier to quickly protect the population from infectious disease.”
However, opposition party members criticised the proposals, with Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Murdo Fraser of the Scottish Conservative Party stating that the effort is as “dangerous route to go down.” Fraser, who is the Covid recovery spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said that the extension of emergency powers during the Covid crises “were intended to be temporary measures to deal with the pandemic.”
Fraser continued: “The fact that SNP ministers are now seeking to make many of them permanent is a clear sign they are unwilling to give up their control over people’s lives.
“With the vast majority of COVID restrictions having now been eased, Scots will be asking serious questions over why these laws would need to remain in place permanently. It is a dangerous route to go down to allow ministers to implement sweeping powers upon society on a whim.”
The emergency powers in place in Scotland were set to expire on 30th September, however, the SNP managed to push through a six-month extension just weeks before the Parliament closed for summer at the end of June.
Swinney originally told MSPs that there would likely be a follow-up request to extend the emergency powers by another six months, prolonging the emergency powers to September 2022, before setting out the proposal for no time limit on the provisions.
Additionally, Fraser highlighted how the government had “already steamrolled” its previous request for an extension to emergency powers, “and now they’ve snuck this consultation out while it is still in recess.” Fraser said that the government are obviously keen to avoid scrutiny over their plans which would include releasing prisoners early and controlling how schools operate.
“Yet again, the SNP are making rash decisions over COVID-related laws, when the focus should be on accelerating our recovery from the pandemic.”
Whilst Scotland are seeking to make emergency Covid-19 powers a permanent fixture of Scottish life, it would be unsurprising if the UK government followed in their footsteps and did the same for the British public, forever forcing us all to live in tyranny.
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