Nicola Sturgeon has tabled plans for even stricter lockdown measures across Scotland – with an outdoor drinking ban due to take effect across the mainland.
Addressing fellow MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, the First Minister announced a “further tightening” of measures in place to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
She cited the “very precarious and extremely serious” situation in the country, with a further 79 Covid-19 deaths and 1,949 new cases recorded in Scotland from Tuesday into Wednesday.
The changes are due to take effect, subject to parliamentary approval, from Saturday. They are:
- The rules around click-and-collect retail service are being tightened, meaning only “essential items” will be permitted for collection. Only “staggered appointments” can take place, to avoid queuing, with no access for customers inside stores.
- Takeaways will not be allowed to let people inside their premises for collection of food and drink. This must be done from a hatch or doorway.
- It will become illegal from Saturday to consume alcohol in public outdoor places across all level four areas of Scotland.
- Home-working rules will be strengthened, with statuary guidance being issued that places more of the obligation on employers.
- Rules around work being carried out inside private homes – which only permit this to be done if essential – is now being placed in law.
- Government ‘stay at home’ guidance is being amended to get around a potential “loophole”.
Measures will help ‘essential efforts to suppress virus’
Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament: “There are six changes that we intend to make and the regulations giving effect to these will, subject to parliament’s approval, take effect on Saturday.
“I am aware some of these changes will sound technical and relatively minor; however, we believe both individually and collectively these additional measures in further reducing the interactions that allow the virus to spread will help out essential efforts to suppress it.
“And of course however technical the changes might sound, I know that all of them involve further restrictions on our essential liberties. I want to give our assurance again that none of these decisions are arrived at lightly.
“Firstly, we intend to limit the availability and operation of click-and-collect retail services, only retailers selling essential items will be able to offer click and collect.
“This will include, for example: clothes and footwear, baby equipment, homeware and books. All other click and collect services must stop.”
She added: “Secondly, we intend to apply restrictions to takeaway services. Customers will no longer be permitted to go inside to collect takeaway food or coffee.
“Any outlet wishing to offer takeaway will have to do so from a serving hatch or doorway. This is to reduce the risk of customers coming into contact indoors with each other or staff.
“Thirdly, we intend to change the rules around consumption of alcohol. At the moment, different parts of Scotland have different laws in regards to consumption of alcohol in outdoor public places.
“However, from Saturday it will be against the law in all level four areas to drink alcohol outdoors in public.”
Ms Sturgeon said this move is “intended to underline and support the fact that we should only be leaving home right now for essential purposes”, adding: “That includes exercise or recreation, but it does not include simple socialising.”
“Fourthly and significantly, we intend to strengthen the obligation on employers to allow their staff to work from home wherever possible,” the First Minster said.
“The law already says we should only be leaving home to go to work if it is work that cannot be done from home. This is a legal obligation that falls on individuals.
“However, we will now introduce statutory guidance to make clear to employers they must support their workers to work from home wherever possible.
“Fifthly, we will strengthen the provisions in relation to work inside people’s houses. We’ve already issued guidance to the effect in level four areas, work is only permitted within a private dwelling if it is essential for the upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household, and we will now put this guidance into law.”
On the sixth change, Ms Sturgeon said: “Now the final change is an amendment to the regulations requiring people to stay at home but I want to be clear this is intended to close an apparent loophole rather than change the spirit of the law.
“It will also bring the wording of the stay at home regulations in Scotland into line with the other UK nations.
“Right now the law states people can only leave home for an essential purpose; however, having left home for an essential purpose someone could then stay out of their home to do something that is not essential without breaching the law as it stands.
“So the amendment will make it clear that people must not leave or remain outside their home unless for an essential purpose.”
The changes were tabled following a day of discussions among the Scottish cabinet on Tuesday.
Scotland entered a second lockdown on January 4 in response to the rapid spread of a new strain of coronavirus.
Since then case number and Covid-19 deaths in Scotland surged to their highest-ever levels.
The measures put in place in early January were the strictest since the measures taken in response to the initial outbreak, in spring 2020.
Schools have been closed to all but a handful of pupils, with strict travel measures and a legally enforceable “stay at home” rule put in place.