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Briefing criticism

Return of levels as FM ‘puts television before talks’

Nicola Sturgeon at briefing

Nicola Sturgeon: left talks for TV appearance

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland will return to a tiered system of restrictions for different parts of the country when she unveils the latest easing of lockdown measures.

Ms Sturgeon will unveil her lockdown exit roadmap tomorrow which will differ from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan for an England-wide strategy (see below).

“This will be a cautious way forward because it’s really important that as we come out of this lockdown, we do so sustainably,” said Ms Sturgeon.

Customer-facing non-essential businesses are likely to remain closed for a few more weeks.

Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, David Lonsdale, said: “We’ve seen a lot of chopping and changing to the Covid rules and restrictions affecting retail over the past couple of months.

“Our hope is that the refreshed Strategic Framework delivers a more consistent and visible approach to future potential changes in Covid restrictions.

“Its heartening that the First Minister has said that so-called non-essential shops are being considered as a priority when it comes to re-opening the economy after lockdown.”

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Ms Sturgeon came under fire after it emerged she left a four nations discussion over lockdown easing in order to deliver her daily television update.

Critics accused the First Minister of putting a public appearance ahead of important talks with other UK leaders.

The meeting with representatives from Westminster, Northern Ireland and Wales – which focused on what the Prime Minister was due to announce – was still ongoing when Ms Sturgeon left in order to appear on the BBC lunchtime briefing.

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She said she had left a “four nations discussion that is probably still under way” after it was set up yesterday at short notice – to be able to attend the daily briefing.

She said: “I do this briefing every day. I wasn’t in charge of the timing [of the four nations briefing].

“We pointed out that I do this briefing when a call was scheduled for quarter to 12. I joined it for as long as I could, consistent with my regular commitments. I went to it for as long as I could.

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“It wasn’t a discussion, it was a report about what the Prime Minister was about to announce. People will criticise me for whatever I do in relation to the UK Government. I am just going to do what I think is right and what discharges my responsibility.”

The Scottish Conservatives said Ms Sturgeon could have delegated the briefing to one of her ministers or it could have been led by a public health official.

A spokesman for the party said: “It will raise more than a few eyebrows that Nicola Sturgeon’s priority is the BBC briefing over working together constructively with other governments.

“She missed a pivotal discussion in favour of a TV appearance where nothing was announced. It shows the value that the SNP leader puts on these BBC briefings in the run-up to the election in May.”

The spokesman added: “We continue to be in favour of the briefings continuing, fronted solely by public health officials who would not miss vital discussions or misuse the platform to make political points.”

A UK Government source said the meetings between the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster [Michael Gove] and the First Ministers of the devolved administrations are an important forum for sharing information and that it was “disappointing” that Ms Sturgeon felt the need to leave.

“It is a decision for the Scottish Government, but perhaps another minister could have taken part on Nicola Sturgeon’s behalf or the chief medical officer could have given the televised daily briefing,” said the spokesman.

Boris outlines plan for England

All schools in England will reopen from 8 March and from 29 March the formal Stay at Home edict will be dropped in favour of ‘Stay Local’.

The Rule of Six will be extended to allow two households to gather, enabling relatives to meet properly for the first time in months.

That date will also see the reopening of tennis courts and golf courses and the return of grassroots football.

Boris Johnson: data not dates

But shops, hairdressers, pubs and gyms must remain closed until 12 April. Alcohol and meals will still be restricted to outdoor consumption.

Campsites and hotels will reopen for single households but international travel will not be allowed until at least 17 May.

Sports can start to return from that date, although venues will need to work on reduced capacities, and up to 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings.

Social distancing rules will stay in force until 21 June when Mr Johnson hopes all Covid restrictions can be lifted.

Large events, such as conferences and exhibitions, will not resume until 21 June at the earliest and may require enhanced testing to go ahead.

Mr Johnson insisted that the medical advice was a priority over rushing to open premises.

“At every stage our decisions will be led by data not dates,’ he told MPs in the Commons. 



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