LD - 9 The Bill Team in situ....

The Coronavirus Scotland Bill eventually passed in the Scottish Parliament at just before 8.00pm this evening with all 80 MSPs in the newly configured and socially distanced chamber having voted for it.

The  afternoon amending process was delayed by two hours because of the number of suggested changes laid down by members but in the end it  went through substantially as tabled with the exception of two concessions by the Government - removing the proposals on the temporary dispensing of jury trials in the most serious cases and modifying the plans for changes to FOI practice in the light of representations from the Information Commissioner.

The issue of jury trials will return in a special piece of legislation on the 21st of April, and between now and then there will be efforts made to reach a consensus on what should be done.

On Freedom of Information I felt that enough had been done to pay heed to the best advice on what we should do so resisted further change, which led to a number of divisions being tied, with the casting vote of the  Presiding Officer going, as is practice, for the status quo which meant the amendments fell.

Despite that the co-operation between the parties was generally exceptionally good.    There were of course other matters  raised and throughout it all some of  the bill team were in the building, having  established a base camp at 8.00 this morning  in Committee Room 4 just along from the Chamber where they were able to brief Ministers as issues arose, advise members on the admissibility of possible amendments and suggest different ways of tackling serious problems.

Having so  many  of the key members of the bill team on hand - including lawyers - was an innovation in itself and they were of course able to call on advice from others working at home.   For my part, as the Minister taking the Bill through (with a team of others working alongside me -  Humza from Justice, Kevin from Housing and my deputy Jenny) I found the support invaluable particularly as there has never been a bigger or more varied emergency bill. 

But I was glad  eventually to get home , arriving back at Feorlean just after 11.00 for what will now be a long period at home, though still working. 

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