Update on Scotland’s route out of lockdown

Nicola Sturgeon has announced indicative dates for the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions in Scotland, including the reopening of hospitality businesses from 26 April.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has updated MSPs with further details on Scotland’s roadmap out of lockdown, the first details of which were announced in February.

Sturgeon said that the Scottish government was on track to hit its target to give a first dose of the vaccine to all priority groups by mid-April – including a “significant majority” of Scotland’s adult population – thus allowing for further plans to be made for the easing of restrictions that have been in place since December 2020.

Scotland’s ‘stay at home’ lockdown order will end on 2 April and be replaced with a ‘stay local’ message that will restrict travel to within a local authority area until 26 April. From 5 April, the phased reopening of non-essential retail will begin, with services including hairdressers, garden centres and non-essential click-and-collect services allowed to reopen.

Children should start to return to school full time after the Easter break, which for some will be from 12 April.

Nicola Sturgeon said that “something much closer to actual normality” might be achieved come the summer

Further easing is then expected from 26 April, when the country returns to its previous levels system. All areas that were under Level 4 restrictions will move down to Level 3, provided that data shows coronavirus case levels are continuing to diminish. This means restrictions on travel within mainland Scotland will be lifted and others will be eased, such as the restriction on non-essential work in people’s homes and driving lessons. The roadmap also includes the reopening of:

  • retail premises, museums and galleries, tourist accommodation and libraries

  • outdoor hospitality businesses – although alcohol can only be served outside without food and premises must close at 10pm, with indoor services potentially also allowed to resume serving food without alcohol, with an 8pm curfew

  • gyms and swimming pools for individual exercise and other leisure activities

Once again, data permitting, up to four people from two households will also be able to socialise indoors in a public place such as a cafe or restaurant. Six people from up to three households can meet outdoors, and the limit on wedding and funeral attendance will be expanded to 50 people.

From 17 May, it is hoped all areas in Level 3 will move to Level 2. This easing will include:

  • groups of four people from two households being able to socialise indoors

  • cinemas, amusement arcades and small-scale outdoor and indoor events allowed to restart with limits on capacity

  • indoor group exercise and contact sport for adults allowed

Sturgeon said her “hope and ambition” was that all of Scotland could move to Level 1 in early June and Level 0 by the end of that month, adding that “something much closer to actual normality” might be achieved come the summer.

Financial support for businesses

The Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF) will be replaced by a Scottish version of the Restart Grant announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak in the spring Budget earlier this month.

On 22 March, the Scottish government will make the last four-weekly SFBF payments of up to £3,000 to eligible businesses. One-off restart grants of up to £7,500 for retailers and up to £19,500 for hospitality and leisure businesses will then be paid in April to help businesses “reopen progressively”.

Andrew McRae, policy chair for the Federation of Small Businesses, welcomed the fact that this more detailed route map would allow small businesses to plan ahead. But he said: “The crisis is nowhere near finished for thousands of important local Scottish firms,” adding that more action would be needed to help local businesses deal with the long-term consequences of the pandemic.

Malcolm Buchanan, chair of the Scotland board at the Royal Bank of Scotland, commented: “As a leading supporter of Scottish businesses, we welcome this added clarity on the government's plans to reopen business and get the economy moving again, cautiously but optimistically. Our latest UK Regional Purchasing Managers’ Index shows that Scotland was one of the parts of the UK that showed the sharpest decline in business activity in February; as businesses gear up to a relaxing of restrictions in April, we hope to see this trend improve, and we will be here to support businesses as they reopen."

Further details of Scotland’s roadmap can be found at Gov.Scot.

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