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MSPs support coronavirus bill

Holyrood

MSPs support coronavirus bill

The bill changes the law in various areas, including banning evictions of tenants from rented accommodation and makes adjustments to the way the criminal justice system operates

The Scottish Parliament has supported new emergency powers to help the government tackle the coronavirus crisis.

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill changes the law in various areas, including banning evictions of tenants from rented accommodation and makes adjustments to the way the criminal justice system operates.

The Bill also allows licensing authorities to extend the deadlines for licence applications that allow the sale and supply of alcohol, and taxi and private hire.

The Scottish Government did agree to remove controversial measures to allow more trials of serious crimes to be heard entirely by judges, with jury trials having been suspended for the duration of the lockdown.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said he would consult with the legal profession to find an alternative.

Ministers also agreed to change a section relating to freedom of information requests to public bodies, which will now get an extension but in a “targeted way” not including the Scottish Government itself.

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said: “Scotland is facing an unprecedented situation. This emergency Bill delivers necessary powers that will allow us to prioritise tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

“People across the country have responded magnificently as we work together to save lives. It is in that spirit of co-operation and consensus that we have worked across Parliament to pass these vital - time-limited – measures.

“By unanimously passing this Bill the Parliament has ensured practical help will be given to many businesses and to people struggling financially because of the crisis.

“The Scottish Government will continue to engage across parties to help the country get through this most testing of times. In particular we must have a criminal justice system that can operate effectively while treating all those involved, including victims, fairly.”

The vote was carried through a reduced parliament, with 82 MSPs in total, 41 government and 41 opposition.

Debate went on late into the evening, with a total of 59 amendmends being tabled by MSPs.

Parliament is now in recess for two weeks and will not sit again unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Commenting on the way parliament will function in the weeks ahead, Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said: “I want to assure the Chamber, and indeed the wider public, that the Parliament is exploring, with colleagues from all parties, exploring every avenue to determine how the Chamber and committees can continue to undertake their crucial scrutiny role at this unprecedented time

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