Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon lays out how Scotland will ultimately exit lockdown

Lizzy Buchan
·3-min read
Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has set out a blueprint for how Scotland will begin to ease the coronavirus lockdown, in a move that will ramp up pressure on Westminster to lay out its exit strategy.

The first minister said she wanted to have a "grown up conversation" with the public about lifting strict restrictions on daily life as she published a document setting out Scotland's path out of the lockdown.

Ms Sturgeon said it was misguided to see lifting lockdown as a "flick of the switch moment", rather than an "incremental" return to normal life.

Bans on social gatherings in pubs or at large events are likely to continue for "some time to come", while hand-washing and cough hygiene must become a part of daily life, the document said.

Some pupils may not be able to go back to school immediately if classrooms need to be re-configured for social distancing. Outdoor activities could also be allowed sooner than indoor pursuits.

Scottish ministers will also consider if restrictions can be lifted earlier - such as the remote areas of the Highlands and Islands - although Ms Sturgeon indicated that is not their preferred approach.

Ms Sturgeon said it was impossible to rule out re-applying restrictions if cases continue to rise but insisted the Scottish Government would be frank with the public throughout.

Speaking at a briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: "What we are publishing at this stage is by necessity a first cut.

"I'm seeking today really to start a grown up conversation with you, the public."

She said the lockdown was saving lives but it was also hitting living standards, mental health and children's outcomes, adding: "We must find a better balance than the one we have right now."

Social distancing measures will be "a fact of life" for some time, Ms Sturgeon said, even if restrictions are lifted to prevent a second spike in cases, as well as continued shielding for the vulnerable.

Ms Sturgeon said: "That means, possibly for the rest of this year and maybe even beyond.

"That's why talking about lifting lockdown as if it's a 'flick of the switch moment', is misguided.

"Our steps, when we take them, will need to be careful, gradual, incremental and probably quite small to start with.

"We will need to assess them in advance and monitor them in action - sometimes, as I said a moment ago, we may even need to reverse things."

The move comes at odds with the approach in Westminster, where ministers have refused to set out their plans for easing the lockdown amid fears it could confuse the message to the public to stay at home.

The cabinet is also divided over the best approach, with more hawkish ministers such as the chancellor Rishi Sunak deeply concerned about the economic devastation caused by a lengthy lockdown.

Boris Johnson, who is recuperating from coronavirus at Chequers, is said to have softened his stance and remains deeply concerned about the risks to public health of easing restrictions.

'Virtual' Parliament: How will it work?