Scottish Government should prioritise visiting family and friends over going back to work, Scotsman readers survey shows

More than 4,300 people across Scotland took part in our survey.

For many, this is the closest they have been able to get to loved ones during the lockdown. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

More than 70 per cent of Scotsman readers want to see moves to ease restrictions around visiting family and friends ahead of the re-opening of workplaces, a new survey has found.

The Scotsman’s ‘The Lockdown Survey’ asked readers across the country to answer questions on how they are experiencing lockdown and what they are hoping to be able to do once restrictions are lifted.

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Of the more than 4,300 people who responded to the Scotland-wide survey, 71 per cent said they wanted to see the Scottish Government prioritise the easing of restrictions around visiting family and friends ahead of other measures such as re-opening schools or increasing travel by public transport.

Measures which would see workplaces reopen were viewed as more of a short to medium term priority, the survey shows, with 45 per cent saying they should be a high priority and 42 per cent saying it should be a medium priority.

Among the lowest priority for readers was the return of professional sports and large-scale events such as music concerts.

Only seven per cent of readers said the return of sport should be a high priority, with 70 per cent saying it should instead be a low priority for the government.

The attendance of large events was also deemed as a lower priority with nearly four fifths of the respondents saying it should be a low priority.Liberal Democrat MSP, Alex Cole-Hamilton, called for more testing and for public health to be put ahead of the economy.

He said: "It's only natural for all of us to miss our families at a time like this. People have been asked to to turn their lives on their heads to defeat Covid-19.

"Both of Scotland's governments must make sure that they're not putting the economy ahead of public health and valuable family ties.

"Massively expanding testing and tracing capacity is going to be key to the next stage of tackling this virus. Once this capacity is in place, I have asked the Government to put in place a scheme to allow people to see loved ones, supported by testing and self-isolation where appropriate."

Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: “This has been an incredibly difficult time for people who haven’t seen their family and friends, and we all long to see and hug our loved ones again – but it’s important to stick to the advice to stay at home so that we can get through this crisis safely.”

Criticism of the handling of the UK Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis was also a clear message in the survey, with two-thirds saying the pandemic had been handled poorly, with 42 per cent saying it had been handled “not at all well”.

Mr Murray added: “These figures are unsurprising. The UK Government was too slow to enter lockdown, too slow to get PPE to the frontline, and far too slow to follow the international advice to prioritise coronavirus testing.

“However, it’s important to recognise that the Scottish Government made precisely the same failures – and has still failed to resolve this crisis, with Scotland far behind the rest of the UK when it comes to the critical aspect of testing.

“Boris Johnson’s failures do not absolve Nicola Sturgeon of her own government’s failings as she is fully responsible for these areas in Scotland.”

The survey also showed that more than half of Scotsman readers’ mental health has been impacted by the lockdown with one in eight saying it had “severely affected” their mental health.

The Scottish Greens’ communities spokesman Andy Wightman MSP urged the Scottish Government to prioritise allowing people to meet loved ones.

He said: “We’ve all been asked to take extraordinary measures to combat this deadly virus, and the overwhelming majority of folk have complied with emergency regulations and government advice and should be commended for doing so. It’s clear the enforced isolation will have long term effects on physical and mental health.

“While the change in guidance to allow people out for multiple periods of exercise each day is to be welcomed, and will be a particular relief to those without a garden, the stay at home message continues to apply and many are struggling at home, in order to protect wider public health.

“As the Scotsman survey shows there is understandable concern that people will be expected to see their boss before they get to see their friends and family. I urge the Scottish Government to explore how allowing people to see friends and family, when it is safe to do so, can be prioritised. This would bring huge benefits for the wellbeing of the nation.”

Jo Anderson, director of external affairs at Scottish mental health charity SAMH said: “This is a difficult time for all of us. It’s understandable that many people are feeling stressed and anxious.

“We’re all spending a lot more time at home, perhaps isolated from the relationships and activities that we know are vital to keeping ourselves mentally healthy. There are still things we can do to look after our mental wellbeing right now – and staying in touch with family and friends is one of them.

“If you’re concerned about a friend, don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re feeling and coping during these challenging times – a text or phone call can make a big difference.

“You might not be able to provide them with the support they need, but talking is the first step to getting help.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We absolutely understand how difficult it is for everyone to be not seeing relatives and friends – but the difficult sacrifices we are all making are working.

“However, this progress remains fragile and it remains vital that we continue to adhere to measures to slow down the spread of the virus.

“We will not keep lockdown in place for a moment longer than is necessary and will set out a phased approach to relieving some of the pressure of lockdown as soon as we can.

“While we share the ambition of business to get back to work as soon as possible, we are clear that this must be done with public health and safety as the first priority.”

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