Back in business
Timetable for reopening economy due next week
Shops and other businesses forced to close hope soon to be trading again (pic: Terry Murden)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will set out an indicative timetable next week for re-opening the economy – including shops, hospitality, hairdressers, gyms and parts of the tourism industry.
She also hopes to be in a position to relax the current travel restrictions in the weeks ahead, though she insisted that it was not yet safe to do so.
Ms Sturgeon said that while the current prospects were “very encouraging indeed”, it was “essential” to get the timing of easing lockdown right.
She said: “Even though we are heading firmly in the right direction right now, we cannot afford to take our foot off the brake too soon.
“We still need to keep the virus under control if our hopes for a much more normal summer are not to suffer a setback.”
The government had planned to move Scotland out of full lockdown and back into a regional levels system from late April.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that “if the data allows us to relax more restrictions more quickly than we have previously indicated, we will not hesitate to do so”.
However she warned that people must stay within the rules, saying: “I am certain that easing restrictions too quickly would be a mistake that we would regret.”
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said businesses would be relieved “that, finally, this will be confirmed next week.”
She added: “We expect this plan to include a sequenced re-opening of sectors, indication of when domestic travel barriers will be removed and support packages for sectors that will have to stay closed for longer.”
Up to four adults from two different households will be able to meet outdoors in Scotland from Friday.
The current rules only allow outdoor meetings between two adults from two households.
Restrictions on young people will also be eased, with four people aged between 12-17 able to meet even if they are all from different households.
Liz Cameron: relief (pic: Terry Murden)
Outdoor non-contact group sports for adults will also restart on Friday.
And people will be able to gather for communal worship from 26 March, so long as no more than 50 people are in attendance and physical distancing is maintained throughout.
Ms Sturgeon said the “modest” easing was the result of the progress the country was making in suppressing the virus.
However, the overall requirement to stay at home will remain in place except for specific purposes – which from Friday will include limited, outdoor socialising and recreation.
Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie feared an increase in cases in Glasgow after Rangers fans gathered over the weekend to celebrate the team winning the Scottish Premiership. Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie noted that the club “did nothing” to prevent the gathering.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Make no mistake, having crowds of people risks spreading this virus – people who gather are putting their own health at risk, but also that of their loved ones and the wider community.
“That behaviour wasn’t just irresponsible, it was deeply selfish”.
Scottish Budget approved
MSPs today also passed the Scottish Budget with the Greens and LibDems supporting the government after receiving a number of concessions.
Tracy Black, director of CBI Scotland said it gave “certainty for business as we look to launch a sustainable and lasting recovery from the pandemic.
“With jobs and livelihoods under unprecedented stress over the past twelve months, firms were looking for a Budget that combined immediate relief with plans to emerge from the crisis with a greener, more competitive and resilient economy.
“By bolstering Covid support in the short term, particularly extending rate reliefs for hardest-hit sectors, the Finance Secretary has clearly listened to the voices of businesses across the country.