Scotland ‘unlikely’ to match any relaxing of UK restrictions on Monday

Boris Johnson has said that Monday could be the start of “unlockdown”, as the latest weekly figures show the coronavirus death toll has fallen in Scotland for the first time.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons yesterday he would make a statement on Sunday to outline plans for easing restrictions on the Covid-19 lockdown, with some measures kicking in at the start of next week.

However, the Scottish Government has insisted that it will not lift restrictions until the scientific evidence shows the virus has been sufficiently suppressed, potentially opening the door for different measures being applied in England compared to Scotland.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This stance comes despite the latest figures from the National Records of Scotland showing the first fall in Covid-19 related fatalities. The figures showed 523 deaths relating to coronavirus were registered between 27 April and 3 May – a fall of 135 from the previous week of 20-26 April.

MSPs observe a minute's silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day before Covid-19 social distancing First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA WireMSPs observe a minute's silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day before Covid-19 social distancing First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA Wire
MSPs observe a minute's silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day before Covid-19 social distancing First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA Wire

A total of 2,795 deaths involving the virus had been recorded as of 3 May, with the proportion of coronavirus deaths recorded in care homes rising to 59 per cent. Yesterday at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon reiterated her stance that the positive signs were still too “fragile” to change the restrictions.

She said the four-nation approach to tackling coronavirus should mean the pace of lifting of lockdown should be dictated by the area that is furthest behind on the infection-rate curve.

However, at his first Prime Minister’s Questions since he was diagnosed with coronavirus at the beginning of March, Mr Johnson said he would reveal plans for an “unlockdown” in a televised statement on Sunday, following a review of the current measures today. “We’ll want if we possibly can to get going with some of these measures on Monday,” he said.

Any relaxation of lockdown measures is likely to be minimal, with changes expected to include an easing of rules around outdoor exercise, although UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the public could possibly begin to use pavement cafes. Mr Hancock said: “There is strong evidence that outdoors the spread is much, much lower, so there may be workarounds that some businesses, for instance cafes, especially over the summer, may be able to put into place.”

Mr Johnson did not reveal what restrictions could be lifted. But deputy first minister John Swinney later stressed Scotland was “unlikely” to have changes to lockdown measures on Monday even if the UK Government did.

“I have no idea what the Prime Minister will say, but what I’m saying from the Scottish Government perspective on the information we have available to us, it is unlikely we can make any particular changes to the existing arrangements we have in place,” he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime programme.

A spokesman for the First Minister said the Scottish Government was unaware what they might be, despite a four-nations phone call discussing lockdown yesterday, which included Ms Sturgeon and Michael Gove. The spokesman said: “It’s really difficult to offer an opinion on something when you don’t know what is. The First Minister has been clear we are not anticipating any imminent changes to the measures currently in place. Tomorrow is the point by law these things have to be reviewed, but she is not anticipating any changes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“She doesn’t want lockdown to be in place for any longer than it has to be, and she has made the point that just because we enter a new three-week period that doesn’t preclude some changes potentially being made before that three weeks is up. The NRS figures show that the weekly number of deaths has come down, but we don’t want to risk undoing the work the public has done.”

Asked if Ms Sturgeon was urging Downing Street to go slowly as the transmission rate was still higher in Scotland, the spokesman said: “If there is to be a four-nation approach, then it has to take account of all four nations by definition.

“If the preference is to go in lockstep, to move in unison, then that means all four nations have to be ready. If you have any constituent parts of the UK which are moving in a direction before other parts are ready, it undermines the whole intention of a four-nation approach.”

The spokesman said the government did not yet know if it would get advance sight of Mr Johnson’s statement for Sunday.

But he added: “We are all dealing with a fast-moving situation. Maybe the UK government don’t yet know what shape the announcement will take. I’m sure on Sunday the First Minister will make her views known.”

Earlier Ms Sturgeon said that clinical evidence would drive the timing of the easing of lockdown, but the whole of the UK could need to “go at the pace of the slowest”.

Questioned by Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw on the potential for “confusion” if lockdown messages from both the Scottish and UK governments were different, the First Minister said: “No part of the UK, or area in the UK, should be forced into lifting restrictions before the evidence says it’s safe to do so.”

Mr Carlaw admitted there was “complexity” around the timing and that “balancing risks is difficult”, but that it was vital the public was “clear on what is happening and why”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The key stay at home message has been effective because it’s been delivered simply and effectively,” he said.

“Simplicity saves lives, so to ensure its maximum effectiveness, future guidance should be equally simple and consistent across the UK within a framework of an agreed plan by all administrations.”

The First Minister said she agreed in “broad terms”.

She said: “No-one needs to convince me about clarity and simplicity. I want as much consistency of messaging as possible and have worked very hard to achieve that.

“A four-nations approach to be meaningful has to be one which all four nations have been involved in formulating and one which takes account of the evidence in each part of the UK, not just some parts.

“That’s the way we have to continue and progress.”

However, Mr Carlaw said there was already “muddle”, with Scottish construction firms asking why they couldn’t work while those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were allowed to operate.

A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.