Guide to Protest and COVID-19

Updated 15 March 2021

This guide is produced by SCALP to inform activists about the Scottish COVID-19 regulations.

Coronavirus rules differ depending on your Local Authority area. Before continuing, check the Scottish Government website to see which level your area is placed in.

Restrictions on protests, gatherings and travel

Local Authority Level

Outdoor gathering rules

Exemptions for protests

Travel restrictions

0

Limited to 15 people from 5 households

If a gathering is for an ‘organised activity’ then any number of people may participate, including indoors, as long as it’s not a protest march and the organisers limit risks.

Travel between level 0-2 areas is unrestricted, but you cannot enter level 3-4 areas, or leave Scotland, except for reasons listed below.

1

Limited to 8 people from 3 households

If a gathering is for an ‘organised activity’ then any number of people may participate, including indoors, as long as it’s not a protest march and the organisers limit risks.

Travel between level 0-2 areas is unrestricted, but you cannot enter level 3-4 areas, or leave Scotland, except for reasons listed below.

2

Limited to 6 people from 2 households

If a gathering is for an ‘organised activity’ then any number of people may participate as long as it’s outside, not a protest march, and the organisers limit risks.

Travel between level 0-2 areas is unrestricted, but you cannot enter level 3-4 areas, or leave Scotland, except for reasons listed below.

3

Limited to 6 people from 2 households

If a gathering is for an ‘organised activity’ then any number of people may participate as long as it’s outside, not a protest march, and the organisers limit risks.

Travel within the Local Authority is unrestricted, but you cannot leave your Local Authority, except for reasons listed below.

4

Limited to 4 people from 2 households

No relevant exemptions.

All travel is restricted: you cannot leave your home, except for the reasons listed below.

What organised activities are permitted?

Organised activities are exempt from restrictions in some levels. 

An ‘organised activity’ must be organised by a charity, non-profit organisation, club, or political organisation (informal community groups and activist organisations are most likely covered by this). The activity could be almost anything except a moving protest or march: they are explicitly banned at all levels. 

Organisers are required to take extra measures to limit the risk of spreading Coronavirus.

Local Authorities may ban gatherings from specified outdoor spaces and can restrict or ban specific events.

Exemptions to the travel restrictions

There are a number of situations which are specifically exempt from travel restrictions at all levels:

  • it’s an emergency or you’re providing emergency help
  • getting food, medical supplies or services for the upkeep of yourself, your household or vulnerable people
  • travelling for work or “voluntary services” which can’t be done from home
  • exercise within 5 miles of the local government boundary
  • visiting someone in your extended household
  • visiting someone in care or in hospital
  • visiting someone in prison or secure accommodation
  • caring for children
  • caring for vulnerable people, including by bringing supplies
  • caring for an animal
  • attending or giving education or training
  • using medical, government and charitable services
  • going to the tip
  • moving house
  • maintaining your property or collecting funds you’re owed
  • going to a wedding ceremony
  • going to a funeral or making arrangements around the end of a person’s life
  • registering to vote or voting
  • legal proceedings, if required

Some special exemptions also apply to travel between Local Authorities in levels 0-3, or for leaving or entering Scotland:

  • participating in or running youth activities
  • driving lessons or tests
  • donating blood
  • going to a wedding reception
  • attending worship
  • participating in organised sport

Under 18s face fewer restrictions with additional exemptions in place not listed here. See the Scottish Government website for more info.

Face coverings and the app

You have to wear a face covering when using public transport or when entering certain public buildings. Some indoor spaces are exempt and if you have a health condition that means you cannot wear a face covering you are exempt. 

There are no rules requiring people to use the ‘Protect Scotland’ phone app, to wear a face coverings outside, or to physically distance outside.

What can police officers do?

If a gathering doesn’t comply with Coronavirus rules a police officer can:

  • Direct any person in the gathering to return home.
  • Direct a gathering to disperse.
  • Bring any person in the gathering home. 

Police officers may use ‘reasonable’ force when exercising their powers. 

Police or Local Authority Coronavirus officers may also enter your house without permission if they deem the situation “urgent”, and may use force to do so.

Police may only stop and search you if you are suspected of committing certain crimes such as possession of drugs or theft. They must have good reason to suspect you and must state the specific crime they suspect you of.

Interacting with police

Ask: “What power?”

Ask police officers what legislation they are using, and if they are requesting or demanding you to do something.

Write Down: ID Number and Notes

If you feel like a police officer is acting unreasonably ask for their identification number and write it down. It should be displayed on their shoulder pads. 

Make a detailed note of what happened and what was said. This will help you if you or the police take matters further.

Being issued a fine

If you don’t comply with the Coronavirus rules, or with an instruction by a police officer, you can be issued a fine called a ‘Fixed Penalty Notice’ (FPN).

FPN gives you the choice: either pay a fine and avoid any further liability or face a potential criminal charge and conviction. If you receive an FPN, you have 28 days to decide whether you want to contest it. If you want to challenge an FPN, you should seek legal advice immediately. If it is your first FPN it is £30 to pay within 28 days or £60 after that. The penalties rise rapidly with each subsequent FPN up to a maximum of £960.

Arrest

Say “no comment”

You must give your name, address, date and place of birth and nationality if you are arrested. You DON’T have to say anything else. (We recommend that you say ‘no comment’ in response to any other questions asked.)

You will be searched, and your possessions taken away. If you are under 16 the police will contact your parent(s) or guardian(s). The police can photograph and fingerprint you and take a DNA sample without your consent. 

Your rights under arrest

  • To be told you are under arrest and what offence you are being suspected of.
  • To be told that you have the right to remain silent.
  • To contact a solicitor (including to speak privately to a solicitor before any questioning by the police begins and to have a solicitor attend any questioning with you).
  • Have a friend or relative contacted.
  • To see a doctor if you are sick or hurt.
  • To receive vegan, halal or kosher food.
  • To a translator if English is not your first language.

About this guide

This guide is produced and maintained by SCALP members. It is free to use and republish, and we encourage people to share it widely.

This guide is based on The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, see here, and correct according to the changes made on 6 Jan 2021.