SCOTLAND has given its thumbs up to “proportionate” emergency powers to help the fight against coronavirus –after MSPs unanimously backed the legislation.

The Coronavirus Bill, which was introduced in the House of Commons last week, will remove barriers for health and social care workers to return to frontline services – while regulations will be relaxed to take pressure off health staff.    

The powers include measures to allow authorities to enforce social distancing rules in a bid to suppress the spread of the virus.

Authorities will be able to cancel events and mass gatherings and close premises if necessary

 The bill, expected to be give royal assent today includes new powers that will give police the authority to force potentially infectious people to undergo Covid-19 screening and assessment.

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Constitution Secretary Mike Russell welcomed the fact UK Government “has heeded the concerns raised” over a two-year time limit – with a six-month review now set to be put in place for the "proportionate " measures.  

 He said: “In creating the additional powers in this bill, we did not mean and we do not mean automatically to use them. We will be guided by the decisions at the appropriate time.”  

“These new measures are for the protection of us all and they are essential to slow down the spread of the virus.”  

 He added: “This new emergency legislation will help to save lives as we face this unprecedented crisis.  

 “It is only because of the extraordinary public health challenge confronting us, as a result of the global pandemic, that these measures have had to be considered.

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 “I am grateful that the Scottish Parliament supported the bill and we are committed to reporting on how and when the emergency powers included in the bill have been used.”

 Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser welcomed the Scottish and UK governments working together on ensuring the legislation passed quickly.

He added: “It is in my view essential that both the UK Government and Scottish Government have the powers they need to tackle the unprecedented crisis.

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“We are not dealing with normal circumstances, we are dealing with exceptional circumstances.”

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the emergency powers are “clearly necessary to keep individuals and communities safe from the virus at this time”.

 He added: “This legislation has significant implications for people with social care needs, staff and pupils in our education system and many more. It contains necessary interventions to slow down the spread of the virus, but they must not last forever.

“With this legislation in place, the Scottish and UK Government must now ensure they are working in harmony. Communication with the public is so important. We can’t afford to have mixed-up messages because of disjointed policies.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack welcomed the Scottish Parliament giving the legislation its consent to proceed.

He said: "I very much welcome the Scottish Parliament consenting to this emergency bill - it is an essential piece of legislation to help us save lives at this difficult and unprecedented time.  

“As people rightly expect, the UK Government and the devolved administrations are working closely together to tackle this crisis. We will get through this, but we all need to play our part.”