The First Minister “remains optimistic” that Scotland will begin to move into phase two of lockdown from Thursday, following a downward trend in cases and weekly number of deaths.
Nicola Sturgeon is expected to set out important steps in the country’s “journey back to normality” in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, including when the retail sector can reopen, allowing more social interaction and the remobilisation of the NHS.
Speaking during her daily briefing on Sunday, the First Minister was also keen to stress that she wants to see children have as much normality in their schooling “as quickly as possible”, pledging to help local councils with the “additional support” they require.
The government framework for phase two suggests public transport services will increase, factories, warehouses and research facilities could resume work and small retail outlets that have been closed might reopen.
Scots might also be able to meet with larger groups of people outside, adhering to social distancing measures and there could be the reopening of outdoor spaces at pubs and restaurants.
Not all restrictions will be eased straight away, Ms Sturgeon cautioned, with public transport providers needing to boost capacity and those workplaces permitted to open, required to introduce physical distancing measures.
She said: “The risk remains that if we move too quickly and start coming into closer contact with too many people, cases of the virus could start to multiply again very quickly and we need to avoid that happening.
“If we hammer down the instances and prevalence of the virus to the lowest levels we can, our exit from lockdown may involve a return to more normality in the medium term then we previously thought possible.”
The First Minister also said local authorities are working to put plans in place for the “blended model of learning” that will see children spend around half their time in school from August 11.
She said: “The Scottish Government will look at that and make any judgements about what additional support is going to be necessary.
“I want to see children have as much normality in their schooling as quickly as possible.”
When quizzed on why the Scottish Government has not moved to erect temporary classrooms right now, as was the case with the quick erection of the Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow, the First Minister said the “practical considerations” were “not the same” between building a one-off temporary hospital and making sure there is education provision in every part of the country.
She added: “The principle of making sure children have the education they need and deserve is one that is at the heart of everything that we will take forward.”
I want to see children have as much normality in their schooling as quickly as possible.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
The Scottish Government’s plans for returning to school will lead to a postcode lottery in Scottish education, it has been warned by opposition critics.
Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, Jamie Greene MSP said: “The initial proposals coming from local authorities show a worrying mixed bag of proposals, with totally inadequate levels of in-class schooling.
“These plans will lead to a postcode lottery in Scottish education, where your child’s attainment will depend on which council area you live in.
“There is currently no nationwide plan or platform to help parents deliver the curriculum next year, with many already struggling to provide adequate teaching in the absence of any central resources.
“Despite being repeatedly questioned, nobody in the SNP has answered the fundamental question of how parents will be able to go back to work if their children are still at home two thirds of the week.”
The First Minister also used Sunday’s daily briefing to announce there had been one Covid-19 related death recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours, taking the total death toll under the Scottish Government’s measurement to 2,448.
There were 25 new positive cases, taking the total to 15,755, while 964 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a decrease of 19 from yesterday.
Following comments by UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, that the furlough scheme has been “generous” at eight months of support, the First Minister said if that suggested there is a closed door to extension of the scheme she would be “very concerned”.
But added: “I hope that’s not what the comments mean. The Chancellor has brought forward very welcome interventions thus far and I hope that there is a continued willingness to look at extension of some of those interventions.
“I’m absolutely mindful of the financial burden of something like the job retention scheme but withdrawing that doesn’t necessarily take away any financial burden, it simply transfers it and we see lots of people avoidably made reundant.”