BLOG - Covid-19 fines in Scotland: What we know so far

In this blog, Dr Victoria Gorton and Professor Susan McVie, from the University of Edinburgh, describe the latest findings from the Policing the Pandemic in Scotland project. This analysis explores patterns of police-issued fines during the coronavirus pandemic and analysis of the payment outcomes of these fines.


In 2020, the UK and Scottish Government introduced new legislation in an effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in our communities. This legislation gave police officers temporary powers to help ensure that people followed the restrictions put in place, such as telling people to disperse, issuing a fine known as a ‘fixed penalty notice’, or making an arrest.

Police use of Covid fines

Our analysis shows that Police Scotland’s approach to policing the pandemic was consistent with the 4E’s strategy, which emphasized that officers should first engage, explain and encourage compliance, and, only where necessary, use enforcement.

Police use of fines tended to coincide with periods when restrictions were tightest, with the largest proportion of fines issued during the second UK-wide lockdown (January to May 2021).

Younger people, men, and those living in the 10% most deprived areas of Scotland were most likely to receive a fine. These differences may be because of different levels of compliance, different public reporting practices, or differences in local deployment of policing resources.

There was a distinct shift in the social profile of those who were fined during the two different lockdowns in Scotland, which suggests waning compliance across all sectors of society, and raises questions about the legitimacy of the Regulations. These findings have been used to feed into the Scottish Police Authority’s oversight of policing during the pandemic. This research will also be used to inform the Scottish and UK public inquiries into the impact of the pandemic.

Payment of Covid fines

Three quarters of Covid fines registered between March 2020 and December 2021 were fully paid by June 2022. This was a significantly higher proportion than for Anti-Social Behaviour fines.

Those who were issued with multiple fines were less likely to pay, as were those with a prior criminal history, and those living in the most deprived areas. This analysis will be of importance in considering justice inequalities arising from the Regulations.

What next?

Next, the project will conduct more detailed analysis of the background factors that might have impacted on public compliance levels and interview a sample of people who received Covid fines to gain insight into their experiences of being fined.

You can read the full findings of the analysis of Covid fines here, and the analysis of payment outcomes here.

This research was funded by the UKRI COVID-19 Rapid Response Call.

This article was published on 17 Aug 2022

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Victoria Gorton