3. To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of any potential impact on Scotland’s Covid recovery strategy due to the United Kingdom Government’s decision to end the legal requirement to self-isolate for people who have tested positive for Covid-19. (S6O-00790)
In Scotland, self-isolation has always been set out in guidance for the general population. It is for the United Kingdom Government to decide how to tackle Covid-19 in England. Currently, the Scottish Government will continue to ask people who test positive for Covid-19 to isolate for the recommended period, and we will continue to make self-isolation support payments available to people who are eligible while isolation remains in population-wide guidance.
We will publish a detailed transition plan for test and protect in March, which will set out our priorities in more detail. As with all Covid interventions, all decisions, including those on the future of test and protect, will be informed by the latest scientific and clinical advice, as well as careful consideration of the four harms.
The Scottish Government has, rightly, plotted its own distinct course in navigating through the pandemic. Does the cabinet secretary share my concern that the end of self-isolation in England from 1 April could undermine the hard work and sacrifices that we have all put in to get us to where we are now?
As I indicated, it is up to the United Kingdom Government to decide on self-isolation policy in England.
My response to Mr Beattie is that we all have to proceed with a great deal of care. The point of self-isolation is to try to break the circulation links of the virus, and if we do not do that effectively when the virus is still a very significant presence in our society, we run the risk of cases increasing and the burdens on our national health service increasing as a consequence.
The Scottish Government intends to proceed by listening to the clinical advice and epidemiological information and taking actions that we think are appropriate for Scotland. The application of guidance to continue with self-isolation and the support arrangements is, in our view, appropriate at this time.
Mr Beattie’s question highlights the fact that there was never a legal requirement in Scotland for people to self-isolate, except in limited cases for international travellers. Nevertheless, people adhered to the rules by exercising personal responsibility. Given that people have demonstrated that they will adhere to guidance, does that not give us a model for a way forward in which we rely on people exercising personal responsibility and we therefore do not need to make draconian emergency powers permanent, as the cabinet secretary proposes to do?
I fear that, on that point, we will go round the houses regularly for the foreseeable future because, fundamentally, the issue comes down to whether our statute book is equipped to deal with all eventualities that come our way. That is the point. That is why we are doing this. On any other day, the Conservatives could be criticising the Government for not taking enough steps. I have heard them do that on countless occasions in the past, during my service in the Parliament.
We are simply preparing the statute book for difficulties that might come our way. I hope that they do not come our way, because we want to avoid them, but if they do, I want us to be prepared and ready for them. That is not an unreasonable thing for even the Conservatives on their most grudging afternoon to come to terms with.