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Police Scotland handed powers to fine people flouting social distancing rules

By Tom Eden, PA Scotland

People found flouting social distancing rules will now face fines of up to £60 after Police Scotland received new powers to enforce the coronavirus lockdown.

On-the-spot fines of £30 can be issued to people who breach social distancing measures, rising to £60 if they are not paid within 28 days.

Fines for repeat offenders will be capped at £960, which would mean they had been caught up to 32 times.

Government guidance on social distancing asks people to only leave their home for an essential purpose such as shopping for necessary food, household and medical supplies, travelling to and from work when doing so from home is not an option and daily exercise no closer than two metres from others.

The new powers from the UK Coronavirus Bill, which make it a criminal offence to flout the public health guidance, will be reviewed every three weeks.

Enforcement can also be used against businesses and venues that have been told to close.

Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “I thank the overwhelming majority of people who are complying with very clear guidance to stay at home.

“I expect the public to continue to do their duty and contribute to the national effort to keep people safe from the spread of coronavirus.

“This is a challenging time for people who have to adjust their daily habits and everything we do will be done in a fair, reasonable and proportionate manner.

“Those who persistently and blatantly defy the law must know we will enforce the law.”

Before the new powers came into force, Police Scotland revealed they issued four men with anti-social behaviour tickets after an aerial thermal imaging camera spotted them congregating in Pollok Park, Glasgow, on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Livingstone told Good Morning Scotland: “The issue of younger people who will undoubtedly be getting a bit stir crazy having to remain at home – we know naturally they like to congregate in larger groups at that age.

“I would encourage them, and their parents, their carers and everyone, to try to use the multitude of mechanisms now to maintain contact.

“Whether it’s Houseparty … all sorts of apps that I have discovered in the last two or three days, that allow people to keep in touch and keep in contact.

“I do recognise there’s a need for people to maintain social contact, it’s important for mental health and their own well-being to maintain relationships.

“But it can’t be done in public.”

Asked about the new measures at Thursday’s coronavirus briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said people who do not comply with the lockdown rules could be “liable to an on-the-spot fine and, ultimately, if necessary, prosecuted”.

Ms Sturgeon expressed hope the “unprecedented” powers will not be used.

She added: “They are there to make sure we can ensure the right things are done to help us delay the spread of the virus.”

The Scottish Government’s Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell thanked individuals and businesses for following the advice and said it is “only because of the unprecedented crisis we are facing, and to save lives, that these powers are being introduced”.

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