People not wearing face masks could be forced to prove they have medical reason

People should be forced to prove they're exempt from wearing a face covering to protect against coronavirus in public, an MP has said.

Under current guidance from the Government, people do not have to provide any medical reason as to why they are not wearing a mask as required in shops and on public transport.

Senior SNP MP Christine Grahame has demanded that people should have proof of medical exemption and heftier fines should be issued for people caught maskless without an excuse.

At First Minister's Questions on Wednesday in Scotland, Grahame said: "Bus drivers, store managers, shop assistants and the public often feel helpless and exasperated by the flouting of the use of face coverings by a growing minority, in my view.

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"Is the Scottish Government considering upping the ante by requiring individuals, if asked, albeit discreetly, evidence of their exemptions – I'm not suggesting GP notes by any means – together with stiffer fines?

"Both of which would deter non compliance, assist the police and provide that added protection for the travelling and shopping public and release shop managers, shop assistants and bus drivers from the pressure that's sometimes put upon them to do something."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon replied that the rules around medical exemption must be approached sensitively but the wider guidance will always be kept under review.

"The police have got to continue to act with discretion, as they have been doing," she said.

"In response to Christine Grahame's question about amending the enforcement regime, in a general sense we will keep that under review.

"We have changed the areas of enforcement on previous occasions and we will always consider doing that if we think that is necessary. Fixed penalty fines for non compliance will be something we consider.

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  • "I think in terms of face coverings, people who have health reasons for not wearing one we have to continue to act sensitively to that. I know Christine Grahame does agree with that.

    "Fundamentally we will have enforcement regimes in place, but all of us have a duty to do the right things for the right reasons."

    She said the vast majority of people are complying with face covering requirements and anyone without a good reason should "really think about it" as a way to protect the rest of the community.

    People with certain medical conditions or disabilities are exempt from wearing a face covering as are those communicating with a hearing-impaired person who lip-reads.

    Official Scottish Government guidance states: "Those exempt under the guidance and regulations do not have to prove their exemption and should not be made to wear a face covering or denied access to public transport or shops.

    "We ask for people to be aware of the exemptions and to treat each other with kindness."

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