Quarantine policy labelled 'chaotic' as Humza Yousaf criticised for 'not doing his homework'

The justice secretary was unable to answer several questions from MSPs while giving evidence to the Health and Sport Committee in Holyrood.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf was criticised for lacking answers to questions during a committee appearance.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf was criticised for lacking answers to questions during a committee appearance.

Humza Yousaf has been criticised for not being “on top of his brief” as his policy on quarantining travellers arriving into Scotland was blasted as “chaotic”.

The cabinet secretary for justice appeared before the Health and Sport Committee in the Scottish Parliament this morning but was unable to answer several questions about the enforcement of the quarantine policy.

His appearance was slammed as “disrespectful and a waste of everyone’s time” but Scottish Labour justice spokesman James Kelly.

Among the questions Mr Yousaf failed to provide statistics for including the number of travellers who had breached restrictions, the number of people interviewed by Police Scotland, or how much enforcement action had been carried out by the police in relation to quarantine restrictions.

Only one person has been served with a fixed penalty notice for breaching the restrictions, namely Celtic footballer Boli Bolingoli after he returned from Spain and did not quarantine.

Responding during the committee to questions from David Stewart MSP, Mr Yousaf said there was no “expectation” that the police would be knocking on the doors of every traveller who was meant to be quarantined as “we do not live in a police state”.

He said: “Police Scotland’s role in this is reactive. There’s no expectation from me and neither has the expectation ever been publicly that Police Scotland would be knocking the door of every single person that should be quarantining.

"That was never the intention, never the implication and certainly never the insinuation.”

Mr Stewart criticised the policy and Mr Yousaf in a tense exchange stating: “There’s a famous American expression ‘if it waddles and it quacks it’s a duck’, one enforcement action but all these people in quarantine is frankly, I think quite ridiculous in terms of enforcement.”

The justice secretary added that the number of people being contacted for spot checks as to whether they were following the rules were still below the 20 per cent target, but above the 450 per week ceiling promised by the Scottish Government.

He said that any increase in the number of people contacted would require an increase in the resources available to test and protect teams as the Scottish Government was worried of a potential negative impact on the ability of the teams to carry out the more domestic, outbreak-linked test and trace work.

Mr Yousaf’s appearance was criticised by opposition parties with Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie labelling the quarantine policy “chaotic”.

He said: “The Justice Secretary's position on contacting people under quarantine order is chaotic and his targets are volatile.

"By this point in the pandemic I would expect this process to be bedded in and operating efficiently.

"Public Health Scotland says contact numbers will be sloping off while the Justice Secretary tells us he'd like to see them rise.

"I'm disappointed he did not come to the committee armed with answers to basic questions. We need clarity about which is correct and what to expect in the immediate future, especially if the pandemic rumbles on for many more months."

Scottish Labour justice spokesperson James Kelly added that the justice secretary had been “disrespectful” and a “waste of everyone’s time”.

He said: “Ministers need to do their homework before attending Parliamentary committees. Humza Yousaf’s lack of preparation is disrespectful and a waste of everyone’s time.

“He failed to provide important details, including on quarantine, and this is hindering proper parliamentary scrutiny.

“This poor performance is on the back of recent muddles and apologies from a Cabinet Secretary who is not on top of his brief.

“The people of Scotland are following the rules in good faith and they need to have confidence in the Ministers making them.”

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