Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has thanked the public for their overwhelming support and co-operation through the first week of new regulations on social distancing designed to save lives and protect the NHS during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Across the whole of Scotland, officers issued just 144 fixed penalty notices, with 20 being in the North East under new legislation underpinning the important guidance between Friday, 27 March and Wednesday, 1 April.
With the vast majority of people complying with social distancing guidelines, officers were required to issue fixed penalty notices where individuals persistently flouted the regulations or refused to co-operate with requests to comply.
During one incident in Paisley on Saturday, 28 March, three penalty notices were issued to a group of men who had no reasonable excuse to be together in a van and who said they had no intention of adhering to the regulations.
In Aberdeen on Tuesday, 31 March, six penalty notices were issued following a report of a house party where the occupants refused to desist.
The Chief Constable said
People recognise that it is their duty to adhere to these guidelines to protect their fellow citizens, ease the strain on the health service, and collectively save lives.
Everyone must contribute to the national effort to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and I am grateful to the vast majority who have made significant changes to their daily habits and routines.
I expect the high levels of co-operation to continue as awareness and understanding of the guidance increases. Stay indoors, stay safe, protect the NHS, and save lives.
The Police Service of Scotland will continue to play its part, engaging with people, establishing their individual circumstances and explaining the risks to public health of failing to comply with guidance.
Officers and the public must take a common sense approach to this unique emergency.
We will always encourage compliance but, as a last resort, we will use the enforcement powers which are in place.
I am clear that policing in Scotland gains its legitimacy and authority from the consent and support of the public. Everything we do will be done in a fair, reasonable, and proportionate manner.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 allows officers to enforce the testing of individuals with suspected coronavirus. It also allows for the closure of events, gatherings and premises.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 allow officers to close businesses and premises which flout the government’s guidance.
The regulations give officers the power to enforce social distancing among the wider public, with the sanction of penalty notices where there has been an offence.
Police Scotland can issue penalty notices of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 28 days, where they have reason to believe there has been an offence under the regulations.
Due to the exceptional nature of these powers, the regulations will be reviewed at least every 21 days to ensure they are still necessary.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said
Everyone should be staying at home wherever possible and I am hugely encouraged by the high levels of compliance around the country after the first week of these rules being in force.
These rules are in place to slow down the spread of COVID-19 which will protect the NHS and save lives. While Police Scotland have powers of enforcement, I expect that these will be used only as a last resort, and that the vast majority of people will use their common sense and play a full part in this country-wide effort.
National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said
The best way of slowing down the spread of coronavirus is social distancing, so I must thank Police Scotland for working with members of the public to keep them safe and encourage them to comply with these regulations.
I would remind everyone that if you do have to leave your house for any of the essential reasons – food, medicine, care, exercise or work, and you absolutely cannot do them at home – then please stay two metres away from people you don’t live with, and keep human contact as limited as possible.
A division covering the North East of Scotland saw the second-highest number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued, with Greater Glasgow having the most at 46.
Divisional breakdown of Fixed Penalty Notices issued from March 27 to 1 April.
A – North East (20)
C – Forth Valley (6)
D – Tayside (1)
E – Edinburgh (4)
G – Greater Glasgow (46)
J – The Lothians & Scottish Borders (9)
K – Renfrewshire & Inverclyde (8)
L – Argyll & West Dunbartonshire (9)
N – Highland & Islands (1)
P – Fife (4)
Q – Lanarkshire (17)
U – Ayrshire (18)
V – Dumfries & Galloway (1)