Covid lockdown in Scotland: After a horrific year, tomorrow is going to be a good day – Kirsty Strickland

A more innovative country would have organised Covid-compliant events to mark the big day tomorrow.

In an ideal world, those preparations would have produced something less earnestly British than a street party but also less Scottish than widespread indifference.

We could have decorated the streets with rainbow balloons or devised a signature cocktail. Those who felt able to emotionally could have headed to their nearest field for a cathartic loungewear burning ceremony.

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It would have been nice to do something to signify that we’re ready to put the bad days behind us and enter a period of positive change.

This long-awaited move along the roadmap out of lockdown comes after months of tight restrictions on our personal freedoms.

While we’ve all heard the stories about people disregarding the rules and doing as they please, the overwhelming majority of Scots have done everything that has been asked of them, for a much longer period of time than anybody anticipated.

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Tomorrow’s easing of restrictions heralds the beginning of better days. There should be clapping and decorations and fist-pumps of relief.

Outdoor drinking, as seen at this bar in London's Soho, will be allowed from tomorrow in Scotland, although conditions apply (Picture: Niklas Halle'n/AFP via Getty Images)

We’ve left it too late to implement a nationwide itinerary for celebration. But at some point tomorrow, Scotland will exhale and the breeze will lift the edges of picnic blankets and flutter through paper napkins in pavement cafes.

The changes we will see tomorrow are both monumental and absurdly small-scale.

Such is the nature of this horrific virus: it has taken everything from us and then made us feel grateful for whatever scraps we can clawback.

From tomorrow all retail premises will re-open, as well as libraries, galleries, and museums. For the first time this year, non-essential travel to the other nations of the UK will be allowed. Gyms and swimming pools will re-open, driving lessons can begin again and you will finally be able to get somebody round to fix your leaky tap.

Westminster City Council has deployed Covid marshalls to encourage people to stick to the rules (Picture: Niklas Halle'n/AFP via Getty Images)

Tourist accommodation will be open to everybody that has grown weary of their own home or spouse.

Much to the delight of every taxi driver and school mum I have spoken to in recent weeks, pubs and restaurants will be open for business too.

And to top it all off, it looks like Mother Nature has some lovely weather lined up to help us enjoy our new-found freedoms to the fullest extent.

Written down like that, it feels a bit overwhelming.

Those who have abided by the rules have been living a chaste existence and renewed night-time mating rituals will be a sight to behold, says Kirsty Strickland (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

These activities are so normal and so utterly alien and they will all be available to choose from, like the best Pick ‘n’ Mix you’ve ever had.

Unfortunately, Nicola Sturgeon didn’t decide to implement a week-long public holiday to coincide with the lifting of restrictions. More fool her, because that would have made for a very sexy election campaign leaflet.

If I didn’t have work and childcare commitments, I might have decided to head for lunch with friends tomorrow. Maybe afterward I’d have visited a museum or gallery to soak up some culture. Not that I ever willingly spent my free time in a museum or gallery pre-Covid. It’s just nice to be given the option.

When England had its big unlocking, social media was flooded with images of outdoor hospitality venues bustling with people.

Naturally, those pictures attracted the ire of professional curtain-twitchers who condemned the excited patrons for their “irresponsibility”. Their main complaint seemed to be that people were abiding by the rules but looking a wee bit too happy while they were doing so.

For the self-appointed lockdown community enforcers, any outward display of joy – “in the middle of a pandemic!” – is judged to be a moral failing.

How dare people take whatever limited opportunities they have to enjoy themselves after more than a year of misery?

While some are feeling understandably uneasy about tomorrow’s lifting of restrictions and nervous about what impact it might have on our continued suppression of the infection rate, lots of people are not.

Many people – who have followed both the letter and the spirit of the rules – are really excited. Hopeful, even. And so they should be.

Life won’t be back to normal tomorrow but the days and weeks ahead will be infinitely more manageable than what we’ve become used to.

It feels like we’ve reached a significant tipping point in our battle against the virus, where optimism has finally edged ahead of its downbeat counterpart.

One of the most cheering by-products of that has been the willingness of people to discuss what they are looking forward to most. That near-constant fear of disappointment has been replaced with a level of confidence about what comes next.

Psychologically, this step towards more normality will be a major adjustment. There is a certain comfort that comes from an empty social calendar and having few commitments outside work.

Initially, at least, spontaneity might feel unnatural. We will be able to see friends and family without the structured format of pre-planned Zoom calls. We can spend time chatting with loved ones over food and drinks that we haven’t made ourselves.

Single people will have to re-learn a whole set of skills. Those who have abided by the rules have been living a very chaste existence and the night-time mating rituals we will soon see on display at town-centre taxi ranks will be a sight to behold.

The Scottish government says we shouldn’t take our hard-earned gains for granted. The vaccination programme is another weapon in our armoury but we can’t afford to abandon social distancing or cut corners with the restrictions that remain in place.

Such words of caution are not at all controversial and it would be irresponsible of our leaders to prematurely declare victory against the virus.

That doesn’t mean we can’t fully embrace the sunnier days that lie ahead. It’s not often you can say for certain that tomorrow will be a good day, but today, thankfully, we can.

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