In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on 30 March, the First Minister announced that the final domestic legal requirement – to wear face coverings (unless exempt) in most indoor public spaces –will be replaced with guidance on the following phased basis.
From Monday 4 April, it will no longer be a legal requirement to wear a face covering in places of worship or while attending a marriage ceremony, a civil partnership registration, or a funeral service or commemorative event.
The wider legal requirement – applying to shops, certain other indoor settings and public transport – will be converted to guidance two weeks later on 18 April.
At that point we will be in a position where all legal requirements to manage COVID-19 will be removed and replaced by guidance supporting the Scottish Government’s Strategic Framework.
The First Minister has made clear that, even though legal restrictions are being lifted, the public health guidance will continue to call on organisations to consider a range of baseline safety measures where appropriate, including:
- encouraging appropriate use of face coverings – especially in crowded environments;
- encouraging sensible distancing to be maintained where possible, as it remains an effective mitigation against transmission;
- encouraging people to manage the overall level of contacts they have between people, as reducing contacts reduces your risk;
- enhanced hygiene and ventilation measures; and
- hybrid working, where possible and appropriate.
SCTS response to the latest public health advice
The safety of all those who use our buildings has been paramount throughout the pandemic – we have robustly followed public health guidance and will continue to do so as we move into this next stage of the pandemic.
We have therefore reviewed the safety measures we have in place in our buildings and aligned them to the latest public health guidance. Consequently, the following measures will be in place for anyone using our buildings.
From Tuesday 19 April:
- revised guidance on what people need to do when coming to court (or any other SCTS building) will take effect;
- we will maintain a “stand-up, mask on” policy for SCTS staff and the judiciary in line with the Scottish Government guidance;
- during court proceedings, all those present in the courtroom will be required to wear face coverings, subject to any exemptions, unless they are required to speak (e.g. as questioning counsel or witness) or for identification purposes. Disposable masks will be provided if necessary. Full information on the use of face coverings in court proceedings can be found here;
- whilst no longer a legal requirement we will encourage all court users to wear a face covering in the interests of their own safety and of others;
- jurors observing proceedings from remote jury centres are not obliged to wear a face covering whilst seated, but may choose to do so if they wish, and we will ask that they wear a face covering when they are moving around the building;
- although formal physical distancing is removed, we will maintain sensible distancing measures in congested areas. We will encourage everyone to take a common sense approach to maintaining and respecting other people’s personal space when in our buildings. Signage in our buildings will be updated accordingly;
- we will continue to encourage sensible distancing in our office layouts, toilets, lifts, refreshment areas and meeting spaces;
- we will continue to encourage good hand hygiene, maintain enhanced surface cleaning – especially of high touch-point areas – and maintain good ventilation in line with the guidance;
- in line with the Scottish Government guidance, we ask everyone to take a lateral flow test before coming to our buildings until 18 April, when national testing regimes are due to change – get lateral flow tests; and
- we continue to support home working arrangements wherever possible; and
From Monday 25 April
- Revised guidance on the arrangements for the business of the Supreme Courts and for the Sheriff and Justice of the Peace courts will take effect. The revisions cover the mode of attendance in civil hearings and for criminal business, accused attendance at pre-trial diets and an easing of restrictions on witness capacity.
- Restrictions on public access to our buildings and public counters will be removed.
We will continue to review our arrangements in line with the latest public health advice as it evolves.
Remote jury Centres
Scotland’s courts now have capacity above pre-pandemic levels, due to the court recovery programme and innovations introduced during COVID with the support of everyone involved in the system – including the legal profession, third sector, judiciary and our staff.
As previously communicated, whilst case levels remain high, members of the public who are carrying out their important civic duty in supporting the justice system as jurors will, for the meantime, continue to participate in solemn business from remote jury centres – ensuring that we provide a spacious and comfortable environment as we transition from remote jury centres back to courtrooms by September 2022. A smaller number of remote jury centres will be required in the longer term to enable continued use of courts which were not designed for jury business.
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we rely on, and appreciate everyone’s ongoing cooperation to enable us to continue to support justice. Please continue to follow the current Scottish Government Guidance to help protect yourself and others.