Nicola Sturgeon’s ministers have been accused of being unwilling to give up their control over Scots’ lives after unveiling “dangerous” plans to make their emergency Covid powers permanent and more wide-ranging.
John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, unveiled a public consultation on removing the March 2022 expiry date for a host of extraordinary powers, including the ability to impose lockdowns, close schools and require people to wear face coverings.
Controversial rules allowing more prisoners to be released early could also be extended, along with the wider use of fines as an alternative to prosecution.
Mr Swinney insisted measures that were no longer needed would be removed, but argued those with “demonstrable benefit to the people of Scotland” should be retained for use against Covid or anything else deemed a public health threat.
He argued the consultation was “an opportunity to maintain changes that have been welcomed by people who now don’t want to lose transformations that have been innovative” during the pandemic.
Unease over ‘sweeping powers’
However, the Scottish Tories questioned why the SNP government needed to retain the unprecedented powers when restrictions had been eased following the success of the UK’s vaccination programme.
Murdo Fraser, their shadow Covid recovery secretary, said the move would allow SNP ministers to impose “sweeping powers upon society on a whim” and accused them of sneaking out the consultation while Holyrood was in recess.