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Coronavirus Bill

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

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Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

Labour, too, will support the Government today. I put on record my thanks to the cabinet secretary for the cross-party dialogue that has taken place today regarding the bill. It is important that, as he brings forward the Scottish Government’s bill, that approach continues. I know that that is his intention.

As the First Minister said earlier, given the type of legislation that we are dealing with and the speed at which we are doing that, scrutiny will now be more important than ever. That is why, although we are not calling for additional meetings to take place in this Parliament, Richard Leonard is right to say that the idea that this Parliament would go off on a two-week recess in the middle of this crisis would not be viewed well by the public. We should be able to hold the Government to account, in whatever form or shape that might need to take. For the powers that be, that is an important message that we need to send.

I believe that there is still a lot of uncertainty out there with regard to who is designated as a key worker. It is important that we continue to monitor that issue. I accept that everything that is happening is happening with the best intentions, in order to tackle the crisis. That said, we need to be able to keep on top of things and quickly address things that are not working.

This morning, I said to the cabinet secretary that I have been contacted by the joint trade unions in Fife, which are very concerned that their members on the front line of health and social care do not have the proper protection and resources to be able to do their job. As the trade unions pointed out, that is a risk for their members, the vulnerable people they care for and all their families, so that issue needs to be addressed.

We also need to understand the issues relating to the supply chain and to know who is ensuring that there is co-ordination. It is right that every elected member in the chamber is able to ask those questions and to raise concerns directly when such issues come up.

I was pleased that, this morning, the cabinet secretary said that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport has already reached a deal with the private sector and private hospitals in Scotland. If that is the case, that is good, because all of Scotland’s resources need to be pulled together.

The bill includes powers, such as those relating to the food chain emergency liaison group, that we need to keep an eye on. In the past few weeks, people have been panic buying. If that does not stop, we need to be clear that we are willing to take whatever action is necessary to put a stop to it.

We need to have a good relationship with the supermarkets. A number of elderly people have emailed me to say that they are having difficulty in accessing food. A priority delivery scheme could be introduced with supermarkets, and further resources could, if necessary, be provided by councils to make that happen. That would mean that most people who are self-isolating would be able to access food. It is not that lots of those people do not have the money to buy food; they just cannot access it. Practical measures can be taken to address such issues if we sit down with the supermarkets, push them and work with them.

I am pleased with the cross-party working that is taking place, so let us keep it up. Let us get the message out to people that we should act collectively and sensibly.