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FM eases Covid rules amid concern over new levels

Woman shopper looking at masks

More shops will be allowed to open (pic: Terry Murden)

More than two million people living in 11 council areas in Scotland with the toughest Covid restrictions will move down one level from Friday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Overall, half of all Scotland’s local authorities will move down a level.

The changes will allow non-essential retail and hospitality to reopen in these areas, two weeks ahead of Christmas.

But the changes brought more anger and frustration from opposition MSPs and business leaders who said there was no consistency in the changes being made.

Stirling, Edinburgh and West Dunbartonshire are in level 3 even though they have fewer cases of coronavirus than Argyll and Bute which is in level 2.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said: “In reaching decisions today, we have had to consider the potential overall impact of moving to a lower level of restrictions at the same time as the Christmas period begins in earnest.

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘proportionate conclusions’

“That has led us to a proportionate but still cautious set of conclusions.”

The 11 areas moving out of level 4 from 6pm on Friday include Glasgow, Renfrewshire and Dunbartonshire.

Pubs and restaurants in level 3 can only open until 6pm and cannot sell alcohol for consumption on the premises.

However, shops in areas dropping down to level 3 can re-open from 6am on Friday in a move intended to help stores and shopping centres better manage the flow of customers after the period of closure.

The First Minister said prevalence of the virus has “fallen significantly” in all 11 areas in west and central Scotland but warned against complacency.

Ms Sturgeon also told MSPs that Angus, Falkirk and Inverclyde will be moved from level 3 to level 2 – but Edinburgh, which now has a prevalence of 68 cases per 100,000 people will remain in level 3.

Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders will move from level 2 into level 1 from Friday.

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Travel restrictions will remain in place, so those who live in level 3 areas will be unable to travel to other areas unless they have a reasonable excuse to do so.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Looking at some of the data today, people find it difficult to understand how the First Minister and the Cabinet have arrived at some of these conclusions.

“In Stirling for example the most recent data shows there are 81 cases per 100,000 people, in West Dunbartonshire there are 76 cases per 100,000 and they are both being moved to level three.

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“Yet in Argyll and Bute there are 165 cases per 100,000, and they have been, and are still staying at level two.

“And why is Edinburgh staying at level three when the data clearly shows that the infection is under greater control in the City of Edinburgh than in other parts of the country?

“People want the evidence. Public co-operation during this pandemic operates on the basis of public trust and confidence.”

Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: “Edinburgh went into a ‘16 day’ targeted lockdown on October 9. We are now at day 60 with no logical explanation of how and when Edinburgh moves to a lower tier. 
“The announcement that the capital will remain at tier (sic) three, despite widely trailing a move to tier (sic) two, is a hammer blow for businesses and jobs at the most important time of the year.”

SNP council leader Adam McVey was critical of the party’s leader, saying he was “extremely disappointed” with the decision for Edinburgh to remain in level 3 and called for a “full explanation”.

David Lonsdale

David Lonsdale: sensible to open earlier (pic: Terry Murden)

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “It now looks like the government is moving away from the framework agreed by parliament. Instead of basing these decisions on the agreed measures of the prevalence of the virus the First Minister has moved the goalposts.

“This announcement smites the hopes of people who have followed all the rules imposed on them. Communities in Edinburgh, Fife and Perth and Kinross have been left frustrated.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Permitting shops in the eleven local lockdown areas to effectively re-open a day earlier than planned is as welcome as it is sensible.

“It should help spread out shopper numbers over the coming weekend and make for a safer shopping experience for customers and for staff.”

Rates and voucher appeal

Ahead of statement on spending new consequentials by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes MSP on Wednesday, the Federation of Small Businesses urged the Scottish Government to use the windfall from rates reliefs returned by big retailers to fund a high street voucher scheme aimed at boosting independent operators. 

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Levels allocations at 6pm on Friday 11 December except retail which can open from 6am.

Level 1:

  • Highland
  • Moray
  • Western Isles
  • Orkney
  • Shetland
  • Scottish Borders
  • Dumfries & Galloway

Level 2:

  • Aberdeenshire
  • Aberdeen
  • Argyll & Bute
  • Angus
  • East Lothian
  • Falkirk
  • Inverclyde

Level 3:

  • Fife
  • Perth & Kinross
  • East Dunbartonshire
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • Renfrewshire
  • East Renfrewshire
  • City of Glasgow
  • South Ayrshire
  • East Ayrshire
  • North Ayrshire
  • Stirling
  • Clackmannanshire
  • City of Edinburgh
  • Midlothian
  • West Lothian
  • Dundee
  • North Lanarkshire
  • South Lanarkshire


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