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Highlands and Islands MSP welcomes Scottish Government U-turn on jury trials while pledging support for Covid-19 coronavirus emergency measures

By Gregor White

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MSP Donald Cameron.
MSP Donald Cameron.

HIGHLANDS and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has welcomed a decision by the Scottish Government to reverse a proposal to replace trial by jury with trial by a single judge.

The change of heart took place today as the Scottish Parliament debated the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill which grants exceptional powers to the Scottish Government in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Cameron, a qualified advocate, said: “As someone who has both prosecuted and defended in criminal proceedings in Scotland, I was deeply alarmed by the proposal to abolish trial by jury, which would have extinguished a centuries-old, fundamental liberty at the stroke of a pen.

“I am therefore very pleased that ministers have listened to our objections, and committed to reconsidering this issue with proper consultation."

Mr Cameron, the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, added: “Just as our communities are working together to tackle this emergency, it is important that our politicians do the same.

“However, I can assure the public that we will not be suspending our critical faculties and will continue to scrutinise the Scottish Government and offer suggestions to ministers where we consider measures could be improved.

“That said, we recognise that extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions and we will continue to give ministers all the necessary support as we fight this invisible enemy.”

The terms of the Coronavirus Bill were discussed during First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's daily press conference yesterday.

She said that it would require to be renewed every six months and would not be renewed unless it was deemed necessary.

The government will also have to explain every two months how it has used the powers given by the legislation.

Among measures included in the bill are the ability to free certain types of prisoner early and protection from eviction for those in the private rented sector.

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