Nicola Sturgeon set to update MSPs on lifting remaining lockdown restrictions
Nicola Sturgeon is set to announce plans to lift Scotland’s remaining COVID restrictions from next week.
It’s thought the First Minister will set out how the country can move beyond level zero on Monday 9 when she addresses MSPs in a virtual session of the parliament at 2pm this afternoon.
That could mean physical distancing rules relaxed, longer hours for pubs, clubs and restaurants, a phased return of office working and larger crowds at sports and cultural events.
It’s likely Sturgeon will also set out measures around the return to school for pupils later this month.
Ministers are also considering changes to self-isolation requirements for pupils and whether face coverings need to be worn in classrooms.
Last week, Sturgeon warned that "a sensible degree of continued caution" would need to accompany any easing of restrictions. She has said face coverings and test and protect are likely to be in place for some time.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the success of the vaccine scheme means “we can now look to move forward, cautiously but confidently, and remove almost all Covid restrictions.”
He added: "Scotland's economic recovery hinges on the SNP government moving beyond Covid restrictions - we must seize this opportunity to start rebuilding from the damage of Covid now, and not delay any longer."
Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the country was at a "crucial moment in our exit from restrictions”.
He added: “We need to ensure that people are kept safe and that businesses are helped to restart the economy.
“Perhaps most importantly, we urgently need a plan for our NHS and care systems to ensure that workers feel supported, services are invested in and the backlog of appointments is cleared.
“We have to learn to live with the virus, but to do so in such a way that the people of Scotland, our NHS and our economy are supported and protected.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens called for clarity on measures to protect students and staff when the new university term begins.
MSP Gillian Mackay said ministers "must ensure there is no repeat of last year's shambolic return to campus".
She said: The Scottish Government must ensure that there is no repeat of last year’s shambolic return to campus, when thousands of students were forced to self-isolate in student halls as the virus ran riot.
“With just a few weeks to go until the new term begins, international students deserve clarity about the process of entering the country and settling in on campus. Yet ministers are unable to tell them how and where they’ll be required to isolate.
“Students must also have easy access to testing and vaccination on campus, and while many younger students won’t be fully vaccinated, it’s essential that guidance around mask wearing and distancing is clear. Support must also be made available for anyone who tests positive.
“It’s vital that the First Minister addresses these issues when she makes her statement to parliament on Tuesday, ensuring that students can be as prepared as possible for their arrival on campus.”