Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland ‘will not hesitate’ to diverge from UK on lockdown

Scotland “will not hesitate” to diverge from UK policy on lifting the coronavirus lockdown if scientific evidence suggests it could save more lives, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

It came as Downing Street confirmed the Scottish Government had the power to take its own approach on social distancing and movement restriction measures.

The First Minister will take part in discussions later this week on the UK’s lockdown, with a review required under law by Thursday.

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However, ministers in London and Edinburgh have sent a clear signal that they expect the current restrictions, in place for three weeks, to be extended.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital, a new temporary hospital at the SEC event centre in Glasgow

There has been speculation that different parts of the UK could be released from lockdown at different times, depending on their demography and the state of the outbreak in the local area.

With lower population density and a lower death rate per head of population than the UK as a whole, the Scottish Government could decide to ease restrictions faster than the government in London - although the devolved administrations have so far agreed to follow a joint approach on social distancing, with only small deviations in advice to the public.

At a press briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: “Will we do this at the same time in Scotland as in the rest of the UK? That will depend on what the evidence tells us. This is not some point of constitutional ideology.

“Ideally, for the reason of simplicity of messaging to people, the more consistency across the UK in what we are doing, the better.

“But if the evidence tells us we need to do something different in Scotland to the rest of the UK, or do it on a different timescale, we will not hesitate to do that.”

She added: “In terms of Scotland’s approach, all along our key priority has been to save lives. The focus is to reduce the number of people who lose their lives.

“In terms of an exit strategy, we need to understand a bit more than we do right now on the impact these measures have had - collectively and individually.

“We need to understand what the impact would be if we release those measures. We have to make sure we have the ability to control this virus.

“The virus will not have gone away. The danger is when we lift restrictions it begins to increase again.

“There is an importance at that point to ensure testing, tracing, and isolating is part of that approach. We need to make sure we fully understand the evidence before we start to release these measures.”

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