Travel ban to be lifted in Scotland from Friday
The restrictions on travel in Scotland will be eased from Friday, a move which will allow people to meet up with family and friends outdoors in different parts of the country.
Rules will also be relaxed for meeting people outdoors from the end of the week, so six people from up to six households can gather outside.
The First Minister said the improving picture in relation to COVID-19 prevalence has allowed the Scottish Government to lift some restrictions, which will "boost mental health and wellbeing".
People will be allowed to travel for the purposes of recreation and informal exercise, as well as for outdoor socialising.
However, travel restrictions for leisure shopping, visiting hospitality premises or staying in tourist accommodation are due to remain until 26 April.
Restrictions on travel to and from England and Wales are due to be lifted from then.
Following the reopening of hairdressers and some retail outlets in the past week, Nicola Sturgeon stressed the need to be careful and "not do too much all at once".
She said she was "extremely confident" that parts of the country under level four restrictions will move to level three on 26 April.
It is expected that pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to open outdoors from that date, as well as indoors on a more restricted basis.
Island communities will align with other parts of the country and stay in level three until 17 May, at which point a move to level two is likely to happen.
Sturgeon said people should be able to meet indoors again in small groups from the middle of May.
A move to level one is expected in early June and then to zero in late June.
She said: "I want to be clear again that reaching level zero is not the extent of our ambitions.
"Later on in the summer - as the number of people who have been vaccinated increases further - we hope that a level of normality well beyond level zero will become possible.
"I know many people want to see venues like nightclubs open again, and all of us want to be able to have bigger groups of people around to our houses.
"Almost all of us are desperate to be able to hug our loved ones again. I remain optimistic that some or all of that will be possible in the months ahead."
The First Minister added: "The final point I need to make, is that the best way to keep on making progress out of lockdown, is to continue to keep cases low.
"COVID is in retreat in Scotland but it hasn’t gone away. It will come back if we let it, so we must still exercise care and caution."
Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, responded to the announcement by the First Minister, saying: "Nicola Sturgeon appears to have listened to what we and others have been saying about Scotland's slow emergence from lockdown.
"After the cruel false dawn of the previous easing of restrictions and seeing other parts of the world plunged into a third lockdown, we cannot afford to get this wrong.
"But the data clearly suggests it is safe to move more quickly and with greater optimism."
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar added: "These changes are a welcome announcement to many who have been separated from loved ones for so long.
"But we need to ensure that this lockdown is our last.We need to continue, and improve the pace of, the vaccine roll out and ensure the testing and tracing infrastructure is in place to support a return to normal."