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FM jumps gun on Johnson

Exit blueprint outlines ‘options’ for Scotland

Victoria Street

Edinburgh’s Old Town is normally bustling with tourists (pic: Terry Murden)

Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled Scotland’s provisional ‘exit strategy’ from the coronavirus lockdown, but stressed the importance of sticking to the “stay at home” policy until it is safe to ease the restrictions.

The First Minister released a 27-page plan outlining “options” for a phased opening of business, schools and leisure facilities.

Insisting it was “highly unlikely” that there will be any significant changes to the lockdown in Thursday’s review, she indicated that some workplaces could be allowed to re-open.

But the paper warns that “restrictions are likely to remain in place for some business activity for some time to come, especially where safe working is harder to achieve”.

Ms Sturgeon said “particular consideration” was being given to sectors such as construction, retail and manufacturing – but said “where home working is possible we are likely to insist on that for the foreseeable future”.

In her daily briefing she said: “We are all keen to get the economy moving again as soon as we can.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘I will do what is right for Scotland’

“Where you can work from home it is likely we will ask you to do that for some time.”

Discussions are under way with industry groups and trade unions about those businesses where social distancing is possible and where appropriate PPE might be possible, such as hairdressers.

Her paper comes just days before Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to unveil his ‘road map’, and drew some criticism that she was playing politics by trying to take the initiative ahead of Downing Street.

In defiance of Scottish Secretary Allister Jack’s call for Scotland to lift its coronavirus restrictions “in lockstep with the UK as a whole”, she said her preference was for the UK to coordinate action but stressed her ‘overarching responsibility’ was to do what was right for Scotland.

The plan outlines a plan for people to begin meeting in “bubbles” of people they know well, though the prospect of relaxing in a pub is still some way off.

Schools

Ms Sturgeon said a return to school “might not be possible at all ahead of the summer holidays”, and said “we will not compromise the safety of your children”.

Ministers are considering “a phased approach to returning pupils to school, when it is safe to do so”.

This could see a list of “priority groups” – including vulnerable pupils, those transitioning from primary to secondary school, and those beginning qualification courses in S3-S6 – resume classes ahead of other pupils.

It would also require “a new approach to schooling”, likely with “a blend of in-school and at-home learning”. This would see pupils attend school part-time in blocks of a few days, with schools being deep-cleaned between groups, and “consistent, high-quality online materials” provided for those learning at home.

She stressed that “we are not recommending these options at the moment but offer them as examples of what may come next and the kind of preparations that are under way”.



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