More than one in four fixed penalty notices were issued for breaches of Covid-19 rules to those living in deprived areas, a new report shows.

People living in the 10 per cent most deprived areas of Scotland were 2.6 times more likely to be handed a fine than those living in the least deprived areas, figures analysed in a report by Dr Susan McKie at the University of Edinburgh show.

At the beginning of the pandemic, people living in deprived areas were 12.6 times more likely to be handed a fine, but this number reduced substantially over time as police dealt with breaches by people from a wider range of social backgrounds as the pandemic progressed.

Recipients also tended to be younger, with three quarters of fines being handed to people under the age of 30.

More than 20,000 police fixed penalty notices were registered by the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS) during 2020/21 in relation to breaking Covid rules.

The figures have been analysed in a report, titled Police Use of Covid-19 Fixed Penalty Notices in Scotland, that will coincide with a roundtable event organised by the Scottish Police Authority to reflect on the oversight of policing during the pandemic in Scotland.

The report is one of a series of data reports published by researchers at the University of Edinburgh to examine police use of temporary powers of enforcement issued under the Coronavirus Regulations.

This report analyses quarterly fines data published by the SCTS as well as linked administrative data from Police Scotland and the SCTS. Research also showed fines issued to people for breaching the Covid-19 regulations in Scotland were more likely to be paid than fines issued to people for involvement in anti-social behaviour.

Lead researcher Professor Susan McVie, of Edinburgh Law School, said: “This report is the first in the UK to examine in detail the payment of fixed penalties issued in relation to breaches of the Covid-19 Regulations.

“Concerns that the public would reject these penalties, and fail to pay them, are not founded by this study. However, it does raise concern about the impact of incrementally increasing fines on those who may have been least able or willing to comply with the regulations as it is likely that these individuals were also less able to pay their fines.

“Throughout the pandemic there was robust oversight of policing in Scotland, and reports have consistently shown that enforcement was the response of last resort for officers dealing with those who may be in breach of the regulations.

“Nevertheless, it is difficult to say to whether the temporary policing powers contributed to reducing the spread of the disease or saving lives. Moreover, it is clear that the legitimacy of the regulations in the eyes of the public waned over time, which posed significant challenges for the police.

“We recommend that the findings from this report should be considered in both the Scottish and UK public inquiries into the impact of the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, new figures show that the number of patients in hospital with Covid has dropped by 12% in the last week.

Public Health Scotland data shows that on average there were 1,461 patients in hospital with the virus in the week ending July 31, down from 1,660.

There were also fewer new admissions to intensive care units.

There were 17 new admissions with confirmed cases of Covid during the same period, in a decrease of 16 from the previous week.

The Office for National Statistics’ Covid infection survey estimates there were about 272,000 people infected on any given day in the week up to July 20 – about one in 19 people.

In England, one in 20 people within the population tested positive, in Wales one in 19 people and in Northern Ireland one in 16.

It is the first fall since May, and suggests the latest wave driven by fast-spreading subvariants of Omicron have peaked.

Health officials believe the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of the Omicron strain are now the predominant variant in Scotland.