Enforcing Scotland’s coronavirus travel ban is “simply impossible”, according to the head of the independent advisory group overseeing Police Scotland’s use of the emergency powers.
Restrictions on travel into or out of council areas in Level 3 or Level 4 restrictions became law on Friday, with various exemptions.
Police have the power to issue £60 fines to rule-breakers, although these are halved to £30 if paid within 28 days.
Repeat offenders can face penalties of up to £960.
But the restrictions are “unworkable” for police because so many Scots are legitimately able to travel, John Scott QC told Holyrood’s Sub-Committee on Policing.
Mr Scott, who leads the independent advisory group that looks at the police’s use of temporary powers during the coronavirus pandemic, said officers are unlikely to use the legislation unless dealing with another potential offences.
Referencing planning talks about the measures before they came into force, Mr Scott said: “A big part of our discussions were around the idea of enforcement realism and also adherence realism.
“Because the reality now – as opposed to the height of lockdown back in April and May – is that significant numbers of people are entitled, quite legitimately, to be out and about on the road – whether that is because of work purposes, for care purposes or other essential purposes.
“There are far more people legitimately entitled to be out and about so it makes the policing of that simply impossible, I think.”
He added: “It’s an example of something that is unworkable, other than in those situations where someone comes to the attention of the police for some other reason, then it may be possible that a breach of the travel regulations would come into play as well.
“The police haven’t been given any more officers or more resources.
“They are also being affected now, more than at the earliest stages of lockdown, by officer absence, and they don’t have more police patrol vehicles.”
On the issue of whether to introduce road blocks – an idea First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has opposed – Mr Scott cited their use in Melbourne, Australia, which he said caused “chaos” and “absolute bedlam”.
He said: “It would be counterproductive and might dent public confidence, and the reality is that a lot of the time they would simply be delaying people who were legitimately entitled to be out on the road.”
Mr Scott also said Police Scotland “got the balance right” when allowing protests to take place – even with marches opposed to the coronavirus restrictions, where the majority did not appear to be wearing masks or social distancing.
He said: “The police have got two possibilities because there’s the coronavirus restrictions, which would allow them to say ‘there’s not going to be any protests, there’s not going to be any assemblies’ and on the other hand there is the right to freedom of assembly.
“In our view, Police Scotland got the balance right.
“Trying to prevent protest or assembly, even in the time of pandemic, would be too extreme a measure. It would not have been necessary or proportionate.
“And a great deal of these events, assemblies and protests were extremely well organised, with people wearing masks and observing social distancing.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe