A Holyrood committee has renewed its call for "unnecessary and arbitrary" powers in the emergency coronavirus legislation to be repealed in order to protect the rights of people with mental health conditions.

In a letter to the Minister for Older People and Equalities, Christina McKelvie MSP, the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities & Human Rights Committee urges the Scottish Government to work with the UK Government to repeal sched 9 to the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020, which provides for longer periods of emergency detention and makes it simpler to secure short-term detention certificates and compulsory treatment orders. The powers have not yet been brought into force.

The committee, which is investigating the human rights impact of COVID-19 and the effect of the emergency measures, states that while the need to take preventative actions to protect the National Health Service and people who need emergency intervention quickly was understandable, circumstances have materially changed.

It asks the Scottish Government for a detailed, evidence-based response as to why it considers these powers continue to be justifiable and proportionate, as was considered at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

Committee convener Ruth Maguire MSP said: "Coupled with this overarching point is the committee’s concern around the lack of detail about when use of the legislation would be triggered.

"As a human rights defender, the committee considers this approach is the very reason why legislation, a blunt instrument, should be repealed. Having the power as a ‘backstop’ while not having a clear threshold, and awaiting an arbitrary six-month review is an unacceptable position when people’s rights are being removed."

A further concern has been the measures put in place to ensure vulnerable older people’s human rights are being protected during the crisis, following reports, and evidence to the committee, that elderly patients hospitalised during the pandemic have been pressured into signing "do not resuscitate" forms.

The MSPs call on the Scottish Government to undertake an investigation into the circumstances that led to the forms being given to older people without conversations taking place between clinicians and patients in advance or advocacy being sought.

Their letter states: "The committee considers it is of considerable importance to understand what has happened in relation to DNACPR forms. Older people’s human rights must be protected, and steps taken to ensure that any roll back is remedied immediately.

"Only by inquiring into the circumstances will the Scottish Government fully understand why the guidance, which is familiar to clinicians, was insufficient in these circumstances and what actions should be taken to prevent a reoccurrence in the future."

Links to inquiry papers, including correspondence, can be found here.