Ruth Maguire MSP today urged the Scottish Government to provide assurances that safeguards would be assured for the rights of children and vulnerable adults in emergency legislation put in place to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.
The Scottish Parliament met this morning to debate Stage 1 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill, an emergency, temporary piece of legislation which will enable a vast transfer of temporary powers to the Scottish Government. Stages 2 and 3 are to be completed within the meeting later in the day (1 April).
Speaking in the chamber, Ms Maguire said: “It’s clear the effect of some of these powers is to temporarily overturn and/or bypass some of the human rights protections established in law by the Scottish and UK Parliaments. This is a perfectly legitimate response to the emergency we are facing.
“That said, I am mindful that hard-won human rights protections are both most vital and most at risk at times of emergency and crisis.
“Significant powers are provided to police, immigration officers and public health officials to arrest people deemed infectious, to place them in isolation and to take biological samples from them without their consent. These actions may at some point be required to save lives.
“It would be helpful for the Scottish Government to confirm what additional safeguards will be put in place where the “infectious person” is a child or a vulnerable adult.
“Clarity from Scottish Government ministers on the circumstances in which this power might be exercised is crucial, including importantly, how children’s rights to protection from abuse and harm will be protected.
“I also seek assurance from ministers on how we ensure the protection of those whose rights are most at risk with suspension of legal duties to assess the needs of children with additional support needs, disabilities, care experienced children or young carers.”
Ms Maguire went on to express hopes for further co-operation in the future once the public health emergency has been resolved, saying: “Cross party working and productive scrutiny coupled with unprecedented reprioritising of resource and powers shows what can be done when there’s a will to do it.
“Once we get through this crisis, let’s demand of ourselves that same will to tackle poverty, addiction and inequality the other things that threaten the lives of the citizens we represent.”
Ruth’s contribution can be watched in full below