Holyrood committee ready to scrutinise Scottish Government response to Covid-19

The Scottish Parliament’s newest cross-party scrutiny committee held its first session on Friday, with its members in the unusual position of understanding the sooner it can be wound up, the better.

Murdo Fraser was elected convener of the new committee. Picture: Andrew Cowan

The MSPs enrolled face the task of examining the extraordinary powers handed to the Scottish Government and its agencies three weeks ago to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Covid-19 committee will consider and report on Scotland’s response to the global health crisis, as well as hearing from ministers directly on the actions they are taking.

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Its members last week elected Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser as convener, with Labour’s Monica Lennon as depute convener.

Fraser told Scotland on Sunday the committee’s primary purpose was to add an important layer of parliamentary scrutiny at a time when many of the public freedoms previously taken for granted have been suspended.

He said: “Because these powers could be seen as quite draconian in some cases, and were not subject to the kind of detailed parliamentary scrutiny that you would normally expect, it was agreed this committee would be established, with the primary purpose of holding government and public agencies to account for their exercise of these powers.

“We’ll be hearing regular reports from ministers about their exercise of those powers and scrutinising any further bills.

“We are expecting a statement on Tuesday from Mike Russell and a further bill to be introduced the following week. That will deal with matters that couldn’t be dealt with in the first emergency bill.”

Fraser stressed the new committee would not be duplicating the work of existing Holyrood bodies, which continue to meet remotely.

“What we are quite keen to do is take a strategic view of the reaction to Covid-19,” he said.

“What we’re not going to be doing is duplicating the work that the other committees are doing. For example, the health and sport committee are still operating and they are looking at things like PPE, testing, and how the health service is coping.

“The one thing we are particularly interested in is looking at the paper produced last week by the Scottish Government on the way out of lockdown.”


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