Nicola Sturgeon Unveils Lockdown Exit Plan With Scottish Schools Opening In August

First minister reveals "blended model" of home and school learning as she aims to steer Scotland to "a new normality".
Nicola Sturgeon arriving for Covid-19 social distancing First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.
Nicola Sturgeon arriving for Covid-19 social distancing First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.

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Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled Scotland’s route map out of lockdown, with the nation set to move at a different pace to England on schools, socialising and much else.

Speaking in Holyrood, the first minister said from August 11, all schools in Scotland will reopen, with a “blended model of part-time in-school and part-time at-home learning”.

It stands in stark contrast to Boris Johnson’s proposal of June 1, which has sparked safety fears amongst teachers, unions and parents.

Sturgeon said teachers and other school staff could return in June to prepare classrooms for the new term, however.

The FM also told the Scottish Parliament she would begin a “careful relaxation” of measures from May 28 as phase one.

The current lockdown was “creating harms of its own”, she said, including “loneliness and social isolation, deepening inequalities and serious damage to the economy”.

More outdoor activity will be allowed in Scotland, with people allowed to sit in parks with people from one other household while observing social distancing.

Golf, tennis, bowls, fishing and other non-contact outdoor activities will be able to resume. Scots can also travel a short distance to take part in recreation.

Waste and recycling services, along with some outdoor businesses, will also be allowed to reopen.

The construction industry will resume and any workplaces permitted to return in phase two will be able to prepare for the return of staff during the first phase.

She said: “I hope they will bring some improvement to people’s wellbeing and quality of life, start to get our economy moving again, and start to steer us safely towards a new normality.

“It’s important to stress, though, that while the permitted reasons to be out of your house will increase, the default message during phase one will remain ‘stay at home’ as much as possible.”

Sturgeon said the “R” number – the reproduction rate if the virus – had remained below one in Scotland for three weeks. It is estimated to be between 0.7 and 1.0. Anything above 1.0 could lead to a second peak, scientists have said.

The plan, published on Thursday, is “high level” detail and “cannot be set in stone”, she said, adding it would be subject to three-week reviews.

She added: “Today we are setting out the phases in which we will aim to ease lockdown and reduce the impact on all of us – individuals, families, communities and businesses.

“The steps we will take are by necessity gradual and incremental – and they must also be matched with rigorous, ongoing monitoring of the virus.

“There is no completely risk-free way of lifting lockdown. But we must mitigate the risks as much as we can and we must not at any stage act rashly or recklessly.”

Working quickly to relieve lockdown measures could mean Covid-19 will “run out of control”, she said, adding that the threat of a second wave is “very real”.

“It may be that we can’t do everything in a particular phase at the same time,” she said. “A single phase may span more than one review period. Some measures may be lifted earlier than planned, some later.”

Addressing those who have been asked to shield for 12 weeks due to an underlying health condition, the first minister said: “We know that the isolation imposed by shielding over a long period of time is in itself harmful. And so, although we are not changing our advice on shielding yet, we will issue new guidance before the initial period of shielding ends on June 18.

“This will aim to increase your quality of life and your ability to make informed choices, while continuing to protect you as much as possible from the risks the virus poses.

“I understand how hard this is for you, and I want you to know that you are central to our thinking as we move forward.”

A “phased resumption” of aspects of the criminal justice system will take place, along with a gradual restart of NHS services, such as cancer screenings, which were paused as a result of the outbreak, Sturgeon added.


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