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MSPs unanimously passed Scotland’s emergency Coronavirus Bill in the first stage of parliamentary scrutiny today, after controversial plans to suspend jury trials were dropped.
The provision, which would scrap juries in the most serious cases in Scottish courts, proved to be contentious with other parties and members of the legal profession.
Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell confirmed another Bill will be brought before Holyrood to address necessary changes to the justice system during the pandemic.
He stressed the temporary nature of the measures, which can only be legally enforced for the next 18 months, a term that would include the need for Parliament to agree to two separate six-month extensions.
He and his SNP colleagues called for consensus between political parties to push the Coronavirus Bill through Parliament in a single day.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf echoed his call for co-operation, telling MSPs: “This is not a time to be bullish, not a time for egos, not a time for petty partisanship.”
In another concession from the Scottish government, Europe minister Jenny Gilruth announced amendments will be tabled to address concerns over extending deadlines for freedom of information (FOI) requests, which the Bill looked to push from 20 to 60 working days.
Scottish Greens culture and media spokesperson Ross Greer said that the FOI deadlines being extended to up to five months for an initial response and up to another five months for an internal review went “too far.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that the number of seriously ill coronavirus patients being admitted to intensive care will continue to rise for at least the next two to three weeks.
She announced that 76 people have now died with the disease, and that there are 147 patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in intensive care units, up from 51 a week ago.
The latest figures show 2,310 people in Scotland have now tested positive for coronavirus, a rise of 317 on Tuesday.
Ms Sturgeon added that Holyrood hopes lockdown measures will have a “marked effect on the spread of the virus and that we will see a slowdown in the next few weeks.”
Scottish Labour MSP Alex Rowley said: “The economy is going to go through a very difficult time. We need to accept that the economy is not going to be the same as it was.
“Government will have to play a far greater role in our economy and society.”
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