Police use of their emergency powers under the coronavirus legislation is to be monitored by a group led by John Scott QC.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has commissioned the solicitor advocate and human rights lawyer to review Police Scotland’s use of their powers to enforce the measures taken against the COVID-19 outbreak. He will chair a group to provide independent scrutiny of how officers and staff are applying the legislation.

Among other public appointments, Mr Scott has previously reviewed police use of stop and search powers, with his recommendations being adopted into current law and practice. His latest role was commissioned after consultation with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, and the interim chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), David Crichton. His group will report directly to the SPA.

Mr Livingstone explained: “Community policing has a vital role to play as we all make the changes and sacrifices needed to curtail the spread of coronavirus. With the support and co-operation of our fellow citizens, we will continue to focus on explaining the legal instructions, encouraging compliance, and using enforcement only where necessary.

“Nevertheless, these are extraordinary powers, introduced quickly for a significant moment in our history and it is essential our use of them is thoroughly and independently scrutinised. I am grateful to Mr Scott for agreeing to provide his substantial experience and abilities, which can bring significant value to our thinking and operational practice.”

Mr Yousaf added: “This is a very welcome, forward-thinking decision by the Chief Constable to ensure that the use of these important emergency powers by Scotland’s police officers are subject to independent review by a highly regarded expert in human rights. This will complement the statutory scrutiny that the independent HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority are bringing to this issue.

Mr Scott responded: These are exceptional and difficult times. In response, the Scottish Government has introduced exceptional measures, including significant new powers for Police Scotland.

“Given the importance in Scotland of policing by consent, the Chief Constable recognises that the use of such exceptional powers should be the subject of full transparency. I therefore welcome his invitation to chair a group to provide independent scrutiny of the exercise of those powers.

“I will engage closely with a range of key stakeholders to quickly set appropriate terms of reference for this work. I will also establish a reference group. This review should contribute to maintaining public confidence in the work of Police Scotland.