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Nicola Sturgeon promises 'grown up conversation' with voters as she unveils Scottish government plans for easing lockdown

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. (Image: PA)

3 min read

Nicola Sturgeon has promised a “grown-up conversation” with the Scottish public as she unveiled her government's plan to lift Scotland’s coronavirus lockdown.

In a move that will heap pressure on the UK Government to spell out its own thinking, Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to “begin to restore some normality to our lives” while keeping the spread of the virus down.

The 26-page document makes clear that the outbreak “will mean continued uncertainty and changes” to the way people in Scotland live their lives.

And it says the Scottish Government will likely keep in force bans on large gatherings - such as at public events and pubs - “for some time to come”.

It sets out six principles that will guide Scottish ministers in lifting measures, promising to make decisions that are “safe”, “lawful”, “evidence-based”, “fair & ethical”, “clear”, “realistic” and “collective”.

The dossier says daily information on Covid-19 cases, hospitalisation, intensive care admissions and deaths will be used to tell ministers “if community transmission is controlled”, allowing restrictions to be eased.

"It is likely that we will need small, incremental steps initially in terms of easing the measures,” it says.

“To make sure this would not lead to an unmanageable acceleration in Covid-19 cases, we will use evidence about the scale of change: how many more people would come into contact with others in each option and what that means for the likely spread of the virus.

"When we do ease restrictions, we will then continue to monitor new cases daily, as well as regular monitoring of the other health, economic and social harms stemming from COVID-19, to validate our existing assessment and inform future assessments.”

“We want to ease restrictions - of course we do, but we cannot absolutely rule out having to reapply some of them in future should have evidence that the virus is again running out of control" - Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Launching the plan at her daily press conference, Ms Sturgeon said: “I want to be very clear with you at the outset: what we’re publishing at this stage today is by necessity a first cut.

“I’m seeking today really to start a grown-up conversation with you, the public. The decisions that lie ahead of us, of all of us, are really complex.

“We will, as we have done all along, seek to inform those decisions with the best scientific advice possible. But the science will never be exact so we will also require to make very careful judgements.

“And we are in unchartered territory. It’s impossible to know with absolute certainty what the impact of our decisions will be in advance.”

And she added: “We want to ease restrictions - of course we do, but we cannot absolutely rule out having to reapply some of them in future should have evidence that the virus is again running out of control.”

The move from the Scottish government comes amid growing calls for the UK administration to map a way out of the ongoing restrictions on daily life.

Ministers have so far resisted calls to set out a timeframe for the restrictive measures to be eased, with Downing Street this week warning that a second peak of the virus would “do the most damage to health and the economy”.

"If you move too quickly then the virus could begin to spread exponentially again,” the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said. “The public will expect us to do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus and protect life."

But leading figures from the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers on Wednesday night expressed their “deep concern” over the lockdown amid warnings of severe economic damage.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Treasurer of the 1922 Committee, told The Times ministers needed to begin a “gradual, step-by-step” easing within two to three weeks.

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