FM under fire
Business calls for more detail as lockdown eases
Nicola Sturgeon: ‘greater freedom by summer’
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland’s economy would begin to reopen from the last week of April, though her phased easing of restrictions was criticised for offering too few details.
It will begin with non-essential retail, gyms and hairdressers and will depend on data showing the virus is under control.
Ms Sturgeon outlined the next stages in moving the country out of lockdown with some shops able to reopen on Easter Monday, 5 April.
A more substantial easing of the rules will begin from 26 April when the nation will return to a tier system of restrictions and businesses such as gyms and hairdressers will reopen.
“I know businesses want as much clarity as possible, but I want to avoid giving false assurances,” she told MSPs.
“I am as confident as I can be that the indicated stage timetable I have set out today from now to the end of April is a reasonable one.
“It is important to stress, of course, that all of this depends on us continuing to suppress the virus now – and continuing to accept some trade-offs for a period, for example on international travel.
“However, if we do so, I am optimistic that we can make good progress in returning more normality to our lives and the economy.”
From 5 April the First Minister said it is her hope that the current stay-at-home restriction will be lifted and that there would be “greater freedom” by the summer.
Ruth Davidson, speaking for the Scottish Conservatives, said it was more of a “holding document” that gave little clarity on planning their lives and asked the public to “tune in again” in three weeks’ time to get more information.
“This statement fell short of public expectations. We didn’t get information about when measures like social distancing will end and when we will be able to do something as basic as give a loved one a hug,” she said.
“Everyone understands that we might not be able to give people absolute certainty – but they were at least expecting the First Minister to give them some kind of hope.
“Nothing has been published about what happens after the 26 April. This isn’t a route map out of COVID, it is holding document.
“People didn’t tune in today expecting to be told to tune in again in three weeks’ time. They have a right to be disappointed that Nicola Sturgeon is not giving them a plan to get back to normality.”
Businesses criticise lack of detail
Businesses also expressed disappointment that there was not enough clear guidance to allow them to plan for the changes.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: “Our industry has been offered the promise of better days to come without the detail or confidence to plan for them.
“It’s extremely frustrating for operators in Scotland to be looking at their counterparts in England who are finally able to start preparing for a return to normality with greater certainty.
“If the Government’s plan is to kick proper decisions down the road because of the election then that is unacceptable to everyone in our sector.”
Paul Waterson, SLTA media spokesman, commented: ““While it is encouraging that our sector can hopefully reopen from the end of April, we are concerned that a return to the previous tiered system will lead many operators to decide that such restrictive reopening conditions are simply not worth the time, effort and money involved.”
Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses’ Scotland policy chairman, said: “We now need the detail about what economic activity can resume under the different levels, so that businesses can begin to plan.”
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “The detail announced today does not go far enough in giving our sector the clarity needed at this point to plan for reopening.”
The statement as it happened:
Ms Sturgeon said: “I know business want as much clarity as possible, but I want to avoid giving false assurances. I am as confident as I can be that the indicated stage timetable I have set out today from now to the end of April is a reasonable one… and that we can hope to be living with much greater freedom by the summer.”
The government is committed to supporting businesses, she says, adding there will be tapered support.
From 26 April the levels will re-introduced with Scotland moving out of level 4. “At that stage we will begin to reopen the economy in a more substantial way.
“But all of this depends on us continuing to accept some trade-offs, for instance on international travel.”
From 5 April – Easter Monday – it is hoped the stay at home restriction will be lifted. Household gatherings will be eased so six people from two households can meet. Also a start on reopening of retail and the removal of restrictions on click and collect.
From 15 March more school pupils allowed to return.
Universities and colleges now able to bring back a small number of students, no more than 5% of the total where face to face teaching is critical.
Care home restrictions on care home visiting eased from early March.
The framework is “deliberately cautious”, she says. Confirms that Scotland will return to levels system in the last week of April. There will be the first reopening of non-essential retail, hospitality and services such as gyms and hairdressers.
“We need to rely on restrictions to suppress the virus.” Travel restrictions will remain in place for some time. “We saw over the summer how cases were imported into Scotland after the virus was almost eliminated and we don’t want to have that happen again.”
Ms Sturgeon says the current situation is “Extremely positive and promising”. One third of Scotland’s adult population has now received the first dose of vaccine which describes as “extraordinary progress.”
2.10pm: First Minister begins speaking
Follow Nicola Sturgeon’s Strategic Framework for easing lockdown in the Holyrood parliament.
The First Minister echoed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement by saying she will focus on data and not dates, although Boris Johnson did give dates, albeit provisional.
Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch said the lockdown easing will be gradual.
Businesses have called for a road map out of lockdown to allow for greater planning.