‘Call me boring': Nicola Sturgeon defends cautious approach to lockdown easing

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted the coronavirus crisis is "not a popularity contest" as she played down the prospect of Scotland copying "support bubbles" in England.

Nicola Sturgeon First Minister

The First Minister said Scots could "call me boring" after she refused to be drawn on the measure announced by Boris Johnson south of the Border, which will allow people living alone to stay at one other household.

Ms Sturgeon insisted she would "stick to the plan" but said that further easing on social interaction may be introduced next week when the the next review of lockdown is announced and Scotland will move to stage two.

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"Call me boring if you want, but I'm going to stick to the plan here to try to get Scotland through this as safely and as sustainably as possible," she told the daily coronavirus briefing today.

"If sometimes that means doing things a little bit slower than people sometimes understandably want then please at least know it's for a good reason.

"I've said all along this is not a popularity contest - my fundamental duty as First Minister right now is to the best of my ability to steer this country as safely as I can to through the biggest crisis any of us have ever lived through."

She added: "What I'm trying to do is make changes and take decisions in a way that gives people as much of their lives back as quickly as possible, but protects us from this virus.

"We can't take our eye off that ball. That's why I'm trying to do things really carefully.”

Mr Johnson announced yesterday that, from Saturday, single adults can spend the night at another house in a "support bubble".

No 10 said the change aims to help combat loneliness and that people are being trusted to observe the rules.

Ms Sturgeon said the move to phase two in Scotland will be considered in a week.

But she added: "I think it's really important and I feel really strong about this, that if we are to come out of lockdown and in a way that is sustainable, not risk the virus running out of control and us having to go backwards, we stick to our plan and we do things in a very methodical way, stick to our review timetables, make sure we are assessing all of the evidence and taking careful and well-founded decisions and that's what we're going to continue to do.

She added: "We will be considering all the things in stage two, which includes greater social interaction for individuals. I want to get people able to see more of their families and friends.”

Ms Sturgeon also acknowledged there were issues about couple who live apart.

"These are particularly difficult times for people in these circumstances, also for people who live alone,” She added.

"We want to move to greater normality as quickly as possible, but we don't do anybody any favours by taking these decisions in anything other than a well thought-out, well-planned way or by trying to move too quickly."

Ms Sturgeon made the comments as she announced that the reproduction rate of coronavirus, known as the R number, is between 0.6 and 0.8 in Scotland as of last Friday, having dropped from the previous week.

She also said progress in the fight against the virus had progressed enough to allow construction workers to return to sites that were shut at the beginning of the outbreak.

Workers will now gradually be able to return to building sites, while hand hygiene and social distancing measures are adhered to.

Despite the announcement, the First Minister said there was still “a long way to go” until construction is back to normal.

Ms Sturgeon also announced an extension of the Scottish Government’s help-to-buy scheme.

The initiative, which provides up to 15 per cent of the price of buying a new-build house, was due to end in March next year, but has now been extended to March 2022.

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