Sturgeon's route map vs Johnson's road map: The cross-border differences in easing lockdown

Dan Sanderson
Nicola Sturgeon has backed the 'stay at home' message - but lockdown restrictions are now easing in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon has a four-phase route map. Boris Johnson has his three-step road map. 

They both lead to the same location - a return to normality after a period of unprecedented upheaval to people’s lives and the nation’s economy.

But what are the differences between their two plans?

The Scottish First Minister had generally plotted a slightly slower - and she would argue safer - course. 

The Prime Minister, perhaps mindful that it will be him that has ultimate responsibility for dealing with a recession, is more impatient.

In some areas, the differences are deep and pronounced. In others, London and Edinburgh have set out remarkably similar proposals.

Here, we set out exactly what residents can expect on both sides of the border.


Some schools in England will reopen from June 1 - but in Scotland classrooms will open more than two months later - Liam Norris/Getty

When it was decided that schools would have to close, the UK and Scottish governments took near-identical approaches.

Boris Johnson announced he would close all schools in England within days on March 18 - just hours after Scotland had announced its own blanket closures.

But when it comes to reopening schools, plans have diverged perhaps more than in any other area.

Mr Johnson has said schools will reopen on a phased basis from June 1, Meanwhile, in Scotland, they will stay closed until August 11. Then, pupils will be ‘part time’ for an indefinite period, potentially spending as little as two days a week in classes and the rest of the time learning at home. 

Both approaches have proved controversial. Mr Johnson’s plan has provoked furious opposition from teaching unions, who said he was reopening far too early, and some schools and town halls are defying his blueprint on safety grounds.

In Scotland - where one large teaching union has far more influence over government policy than is the case in England - teachers are largely on board with the timetable but are demanding more clarity over how the part-time ‘blended learning’ system will work.

Meanwhile, there are grave concerns about the impact the extended closure in Scotland will have on the education of children, particularly the most vulnerable who may not have adequate support at home.


Shops will have to wait longer to reopen in Scotland - and larger stores will have to close off some areas - Tolga Akmen/AFP

All non-essential shops in England will be allowed to reopen from June 15, while outdoor markets and car showrooms can open their doors earlier from June 1, as long as new measures drawn up to protect shoppers are followed.

The move is “a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK," Alok Sharma, the UK business secretary, has said. 

North of the border, retailers will have to wait longer to open their doors - although rules have been eased following lobbying from businesses which were alarmed at initial proposals.

All shops in Scotland will be able to reopen in ‘phase two’ of the process of easing restrictions. We don’t know exactly when this will be - but the earliest likely date will be June 18. Scotland is to enter ‘phase one’ on the route map on May 28, and Ms Sturgeon has said she will review whether to proceed to the next stage every three weeks.

There is a caveat in Scotland - large shops will only be allowed to open if their sales area is no more than 800 square metres, meaning some areas of department stores will have to be closed off. 

However, it is expected that people should be able to use click and collect services to buy goods in inaccessible areas. 

It had initially been planned that large shops in Scotland would be closed for longer, before SNP ministers agreed to compromise.

In England, garden centres have been open since May 13. However, in Scotland, they have been told they will be permitted to open from May 29.

Meeting friends and family

Scots are looking forward to being allowed to attend barbecues in others' gardens from this weekend - Portra/Portra Images

For many, being separated from friends and family has been the hardest aspect of lockdown.

Since May 13, people in England were able to meet up with one other person from outside their household outdoors.

In Scotland, from May 29, people will be able “to meet up with another household outdoors, in small numbers, including in gardens” as long as physical distancing rules are followed.

This paves the way for slightly larger gatherings, of up to eight people, although holding events such as barbeques could prove complicated as guests would not technically be allowed indoors to use the toilet.

It remains one of the few areas where rules in Scotland will initially be more lenient than those in England. 

Mr Johnson has announced that from June 1, people in England will also be able to meet in larger groups outdoors, but gatherings will be limited to a maximum of six. However, people will be allowed to go inside their host's home to use the toilet.

The UK government has floated the idea of using household “bubbles”, where members of one household could meet up with members of another, but potentially no others.

This idea was considered - but apparently rejected - in Scotland. The Scottish government’s plan states that from phase two (June 18 at the earliest) outside meetings with larger groups will be allowed with physical distancing. 

Meeting people from another household indoors with physical distancing and hygiene measures would also be permitted from phase two in Scotland. 

Returning to work

Some non-essential businesses have been given the green light to reopen in England - but not in Scotland - Patrick Fraser /Stone RF

There have been notable differences in emphasis on this issue between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Johnson.

When the Prime Minister said those who could not work from home should be encouraged to return to work from May 13, the message was swiftly rejected by the First Minister, causing a headache for those who live in Scotland, but commute to work in Northumbria or Cumbria.

Ms Sturgeon has continued to take a far more cautious approach to this issue, with indoor non-office based work, such as labs and factories, only resuming from phase two (June 18 at the earliest). These businesses have been allowed to operate in England since May 13.

Both administrations have said people who are able to work from home should continue to do so.

The Scottish government has urged employers that are reopening to stagger starting hours if possible, in part to avoid congestion on public transport in rush hours where the virus could be more easily transmitted.

Pubs and restaurants

Pubs could potentially open sooner in Scotland but only outside areas - PA/Kirsty O'Connor

Both north and south of the border, pubs and restaurants remain shut.

In England, they may be allowed to reopen from July 4 “at the earliest”, although that date is not set in stone.

It is possible that pubs could actually open earlier in Scotland, although again, there are no guarantees.

The Scottish government’s plan states that pubs and restaurants would be able to open outdoor spaces from phase two, which will possibly come next month but potentially later if ministers judge the risk of infection remains too high. 

Physical distancing and enhanced hygiene rules would have to be followed, meaning a space in one of the country’s relatively limited number of beer gardens would be at a premium.

Pubs and restaurants in Scotland would be able to open indoor spaces from phase three - which at the earliest would be July 9, although could be much later in the year.

Some figures in the hospitality industry in Scotland have said that early July may be too early to reopen bars, as spaces may need to be physically reconfigured to accommodate social distancing rules. However some landlords are eager to reopen as soon as possible.

Table service rather than queuing at bars, limits on capacity and even restrictions on the number of drinks that one person can consume have been among the suggestions put forward for pubs to reopen safely.

Sports, leisure and exercise

In Scotland, people have been able to walk their dogs on golf courses - but not to tee off - Jane Barlow/PA

In England, golf courses have been open since the middle of May.

Courses in Scotland have remained closed, which has caused frustration among some of the country’s many golfers.

However, they will be able to finally reopen from May 29, with activities such as angling, hiking, canoeing, tennis and outdoor swimming also officially permitted.

The Scottish Premiership ended its season early, and professional sport will only be allowed to resume once the country reaches phase two of easing lockdown. In England, the Premier League will resume - behind closed doors - from June 17.

From May 29, people in Scotland will be able to travel further for exercise, although people have been advised not to go more than five miles from home unless they are visiting family. There is no distance limit in England.

People have already been able to sunbathe and sit in parks in England since May 13, and this will also be allowed in Scotland from May 29.