The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 came into force on Tuesday 7 April 2020, bringing significant changes in response to the pandemic. A guidance for stakeholders document sets out the Act's key measures, focusing on the relaxation of the duties of local government and public bodies in respect of reports and other documents and amendments to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
A whole series of secondary legislation has also been passed for the purpose of introducing or easing restrictions in response to COVID-19. The full set of Statutory Instruments and Scottish Statutory Instruments can be accessed on the legislation.gov.uk website but this is an overview of the most recent changes which apply to Scotland
1. Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 2020
These regulations, introduced on 21 April 2020, amend the principal Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 which were introduced at the end of March to ensure that social distancing can be properly enforced.
The latest regulations impose the two metre rule on all businesses so that they must take reasonable steps to ensure their employees are able to maintain that distance from each other.
Businesses must also ensure that they admit people into their premises in sufficiently small numbers to maintain a two metre distance and take steps to ensure that distance can also be maintained by people waiting to enter their premises. The regulations strengthen the position already set out in guidance by giving local authorities and the police powers to enforce this rule. So where a business is unreasonably not following social distancing rules they can be fined or, ultimately, prosecuted.
2. The Town and Country Planning (Miscellaneous Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020
These regulations include temporary steps to suspend the need for (i) public events in pre-application consultation, (ii) local review bodies meeting in public and (iii) hard copies of EIA reports in physical places. More detailed guidance is available here.
3. Feed-in Tariffs (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020
This order provides small-scale renewable electricity generators with an additional six months to apply for accreditation under the Feed-In Tariffs scheme (“FIT scheme”) following unavoidable delays in commissioning their projects caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
4. Electricity Works (Miscellaneous Temporary Modifications) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020
The purpose of this instrument is to temporarily modify various regulations to remove requirements for hard copy documents and Environmental Impact Assessment reports to be made physically available for inspection by the public or delivered to the Scottish Ministers in respect of any applications under the Electricity Act 1989. Instead, all such documents must be made available electronically.
All of this emergency legislation has been rushed through due to the requirement for a swift response to the challenges posed by the pandemic but this does not mean that it is beyond scrutiny. A new COVID-19 Parliamentary Committee has been established to consider the Scottish Government's response to COVID-19 and the operation of powers in the legislation that has been passed as a result.
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Our specialist teams are on hand to help you with any issues raised by the above, or any other matters which arise during the current crisis. Please get in touch with a member of our team if you require any assistance.