The move was announced earlier in the week by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who said a reduction in prevalence of the virus meant some acceleration of planned lockdown easing was possible to support mental health and wellbeing.
From today, people will be able to leave their local authority area for the purposes of socialising, recreation or exercise, though travel between the mainland and some islands will not be permitted. It means many families will be able to reunite in person for the first time since last year.
Rules on gatherings have also been relaxed, with six adults from up to six households able to meet up outside.
Scotland’s current lockdown easing plan will see cafes, restaurants and beer gardens open on April 26, along with shops, gyms, libraries and museums.
Hospitality will need to close their doors at 8pm indoors and 10pm outdoors, with alcohol only allowed to be served outside.
Travel will also be allowed on this date to other parts of Britain, with reviews planned on journeys to Northern Ireland and the Republic.
From May 17, pubs are set to open indoors until 10:30pm and contact sports, cinemas, and some small scale events can take place.
Up to four people from two households will also be able to meet up indoors.
Scotland has five tiers of coronavirus restrictions, with the entire country – excepting some of the islands – currently in the highest tier, Level 4.
Ms Sturgeon said this week she was confident the country will move down levels as planned.
“We are now extremely confident that those parts of the country currently in Level 4 will move to Level 3 on April 26, that’s now less that two weeks away,” she said.
“That means, amongst other things, that on that day shops will fully reopen. Pubs, cafes and restaurants will also be able to fully open outdoors on April 26 and will be able to open indoors on that date, but on a restricted basis.”
Current advice is that the risk of infection is lower among outdoor gatherings as opposed to indoors, the First Minister said.
Chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “What we’re seeing just now is a transition phase.
“Because of the success of the vaccination programme, we are seeing a decoupling of the infection numbers we are having across the country and the way they have traditionally translated into severe illness and deaths.
“That whole assessment of risk is now changing.”