Part 1 creates new powers to respond to public health emergencies. The powers are similar to powers that Scottish Ministers already have on a temporary basis to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. For example, these powers have been used at times to impose “lockdown” restrictions. The new powers will apply to any future public health emergencies.
Part 2 also creates new powers to help Scottish Ministers respond to public health emergencies. In this Part the powers relate specifically to educational establishments such as schools, colleges and universities. They also relate to school boarding and student accommodation. As an example, this power could be used to restrict access to schools due to a public health emergency.
Part 3 makes changes to a number of services. The majority of these relate to communicating electronically. This includes provisions about holding virtual meetings and signing documents electronically. For example, registering births and deaths would no longer have to be done in person, though it still could be. Most of the changes that are now being made permanent are similar to provisions made in previous pieces of Coronavirus legislation.
Part 4 relates to eviction from properties in the private rented sector. Currently some circumstances result in tribunals having to grant an eviction. The Bill will change this. It proposes that, in relation to the tenancy types set out in the Bill, a tribunal will not have to automatically evict people. The tribunal will, however, still be able to grant an eviction if it considers it reasonable. Part 4 also sets up a “pre-action protocol”. This protocol is something landlords can follow before starting eviction proceedings. Whether landlords have or have not followed this protocol will be considered by a tribunal in deciding whether to order an eviction in cases where late or non-payment of rent is the reason why the landlord is seeking an eviction.
Part 5 (and the Bill’s schedule) continues some of the changes to the justice system brought in during the pandemic. These are currently set to expire on 31 March 2022, but that can be extended with Parliamentary approval to 30 September 2022. This Bill will continue these measures until November 2023. The Bill also grants Scottish Ministers the power to extend this, using regulations, to November 2024 and beyond to November 2025.
Part 6 sets out when the Bill would come into force and what its short title would be. It also gives a power to Scottish Ministers to make small changes to give effect to the Bill.