SCOTTISH Government plans to make emergency Covid powers permanent will turn Holyrood into a “toothless talking shop," opposition MSPs have warned.  

The Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill looks set to only narrowly make it through to the next stage of the parliamentary process at today's debate, with the SNP forced to rely on their Green partners.

The Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are all set to oppose. 

The Bill effectively gives ministers what are known as Henry VIII powers, allowing them to amend any act of parliament in a “serious and imminent crisis”. 

It would also make changes in 30 specific legislative areas, including allowing the government to close schools, enforce stay-at-home restrictions and shut down hospitality venues without first having to seek the approval of parliament.

Landlords have also expressed concerns over protections which would make it harder to evict tenants.

The legislation was hugely opposed in a recent Holyrood consultation, with 90 per cent of the 4,000 organisations and individuals who responded critical of the legislation.

Commenting ahead of the debate, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “While there is much to welcome in this bill the fact is that we simply cannot support it as it stands.

“This bill represents a blatant power grab on behalf of the SNP government which threatens the balance of power in our democratic system.

“We cannot allow this government to use the experience of the pandemic to centralise and monopolise power.

“The basis of our parliamentary system cannot be wished away by the SNP, nor can this chamber be demoted to a toothless talking shop."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton described the legislation as a "power grab". 

He pointed to comments made by the First Minister at the start of the pandemic when she promised that the emergency powers “should exist only for as long as they are needed.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "When the pandemic hit, we all took a deep breath and granted deep and wide-ranging powers to the government to get us through. However, even the First Minister was clear that these powers were never meant to be forever.

“If there is a future crisis, the Scottish Parliament has demonstrated that it is capable of working at speed to provide the necessary tools for tackling it. 

“This should not be taken as an opportunity for a colossal SNP power grab, lining their pockets with powers that they nobody would have countenanced handing over pre-pandemic. 

"SNP ministers have a track record of taking decisions at the last minute with little regard for public accountability. Parliament should not be handing the keys to ministers to make decisions affecting everything from school closure to the mass release of prisoners behind closed doors." 

Scottish Conservative shadow covid recovery secretary Murdo Fraser agreed: “The Scottish Conservatives remain resolutely opposed to what is a blatant and unnecessary power grab by SNP Ministers.

“To make permanent what were emergency and extraordinary powers transfers control from parliament to government - and we can’t support that.

“There’s a reason why 80 per cent of respondents to the Scottish Government’s survey opposed them keeping powers to enforce lockdowns, bring in travel restrictions and close schools, and why the proposals in the Bill only got through the Covid Recovery Committee on the SNP convener’s casting vote.

“Those SNP MSPs who value accountable and democratic government must stand up to Ministers and join opposition parties in opposing this overreach.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson defended the legislation:“While it is vital that Government has the legal powers required in the event of any future public health threats, it is equally important that Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise the use of those powers.

“Ministers welcome the Covid-19 Recovery Committee’s report endorsing the general principles of the Bill, following on from other constructive committee reports.

“The Government has carefully considered this feedback and the Deputy First Minister will set out our response to Parliament in the Stage One debate.”