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Coronavirus Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 24th March 2020.

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Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

Time is short, so I will be brief. I want to raise some concerns with the minister.

Labour members support the legislation. However, it should be subject to a full review after three months—we should not wait until the end of six months.

Secondly, the minister will have seen that concerns were raised, particularly in England and Wales, about the proposal on forced cremations. I am glad that there has been an amendment to that. Will he give a commitment—a guarantee—that in Scotland there will be no circumstances under which any deceased person will be cremated against their family’s will? Such reassurance would be welcome.

Thirdly, I welcome the food chain emergency liaison group that is part of the legislation, although, as Patrick Harvey has pointed out, it is about communication rather than forcing supply chains to stay open. Will the Scottish Government and Scottish associations be part of that food chain emergency liaison group, to make sure that there is a free flow of supply to Scotland?

Fourthly, there are issues around human rights in relation to the sectioning of individuals; the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003; what is reported to the procurator fiscal when there is a death in an NHS setting; the emergency registration of health workers; and the fast-tracking of Disclosure Scotland applications—and the load that might be put on to all of that. What work is being done to make sure that we safeguard and maintain human rights when we are asking people to do so much more with a smaller workforce? If there is a real increase in the number of applications to Disclosure Scotland, what backup measures have been put in place to make sure that there is enough of a workforce to do that important work so that we can get people on to the front line as quickly as possible?

I note again that we do not want this legislation and that we wish that we did not have to introduce it. However, it is nonetheless important legislation to make sure that we have the right response to this crisis. I hope that—as has been the case until now—we continue to have active dialogue between members of this Parliament and the Scottish Government, and between the Scottish Government and the UK Government, so that if any unintended consequences were to result from the legislation, they could be addressed appropriately.