Scottish coronavirus legislation includes accidental loophole for places of worship

The Scottish Government has been urged to urgently amend a mistake in coronavirus legislation that means places of worship may not be committing an offence if they fail to ensure social distancing.

Religious gatherings and places of worship have been curtailed by the pandemic.
Religious gatherings and places of worship have been curtailed by the pandemic.

MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee spotted the drafting error in the regulations for the new five-tier system of coronavirus restrictions.

Committee convener Bill Bowman said places of worship in areas placed in either Level 2 or Level 3 would “not in fact be committing an offence” if they fail to ensure people stay at least two metres apart.

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The committee has now written to Business and Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell asking for the Government to introduce “amending instrument as a matter of urgency”.

The letter said while “mistakes happen”, given the national significance of the regulations in setting the restrictions that apply to the various levels around the country “errors which have such a material affect on the operation of the instrument are unwelcome”.

Mr Bowman said: “The committee recognises that, in order to tackle the second wave of this pandemic, it was necessary to introduce more targeted restrictions at a local level while allowing businesses to continue to operate, with appropriate penalties for those who fail to follow the rules.

“However, if this new strategy is to have the desired effect it is vital that the legislation is clear and operates as intended.

"Given the importance of these regulations we were therefore dismayed to have discovered this significant drafting error.”