One of the most alarming things about the response to the pandemic by democratic governments across the world is the enthusiasm with which they’ve granted themselves ’emergency’ powers, suspending civil rights – and elections – so that they might better deal with the ‘crisis’. Executives have faced little opposition from legislatures, attempts to restrain political leaders through the courts have been largely unsuccessful and the media has, for the most part, failed to hold them to account. Bad though this has been, however, we have always been able to take some comfort from the fact that these extraordinary powers were temporary and that, eventually, when things returned to normal, governments would have to relinquish them.
Turns out, that was naive. The Scottish Government has unveiled plans to make its ’emergency’ Covid powers permanent. The Telegraph has more.
John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, unveiled a public consultation on removing the March 2022 expiry date for a host of extraordinary powers, including the ability to impose lockdowns, close schools and require people to wear face coverings.
Controversial rules allowing more prisoners to be released early could also be extended, along with the wider use of fines as an alternative to prosecution.
Mr Swinney insisted measures that were no longer needed would be removed, but argued those with “demonstrable benefit to the people of Scotland” should be retained for use against Covid or anything else deemed a public health threat.
He argued the consultation was “an opportunity to maintain changes that have been welcomed by people who now don’t want to lose transformations that have been innovative” during the pandemic.
Worth reading in full.