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24 March 2020
Scottish Parliament to sit once a week to reduce coronavirus risk


Scottish Parliament to sit once a week to reduce coronavirus risk

The number of MSPs allowed in the chamber has been reduced, while cabinet has begun practicing social distancing

The Scottish Parliament has cut the number of days it sits to just one and reduced the number of MSPs allowed in the chamber to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

The cabinet has also begun practicing social distancing during meetings, with the First Minister and several colleagues sitting a distance apart and most ministers taking part by phone.

Following Tuesday’s sitting, Holyrood will only meet once a week, and will not meet again until Wednesday 1 April.

The number of MSPs allowed in the chamber has been reduced to a maximum of 79, with 50 seats being removed to keep parliamentarians a distance apart.

The changes come as MSPs debate giving legislative consent to the UK Government’s emergency COVID-19 Bill, which will give police additional powers to enforce social distancing among the public.

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, who will now sit at the far left hand side of the podium, said: “We are now practicing social distancing throughout this building and in the chamber we have removed chairs so that members are sitting a safe distance apart.

“It’s very important that the parliament continues to function at this vital time, but that we do so while observing the very important, the vital public health message of keeping a safe distance.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged the changes during her statement to parliament, saying: “Parliament is rightly changing how we operate. Although, and I want to put this point strongly,  all MSPs must continue to perform a very important scrutiny role at a time like this, I understand that it has been agreed that until the Easter recess at least, parliament will now only sit for one day a week, rather than three.”

Sturgeon also reiterated the latest government advice to the general public, which includes a ban on gatherings of two or more people and severe restrictions on circumstances under which people can leave their homes.

She added: “For now I hope we all show solidarity for each other even as we stay apart by staying in touch with those we care about and by helping each other the best we can.

“But let's’ be clear, collectively as a parliament, that staying at home has become the only way of slowing this virus.

“And that must right now be the priority of each and every one of us.”

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