Christmas gathering plan could be revealed next week, Sturgeon tells MSPs

A “concrete” plan for gatherings to take place at Christmas could be revealed as early as next week, Scotland’s First Minister has said.

Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs on Thursday that the chief medical officers of all four UK nations have been asked to compile a proposal for how the easing of some restrictions would work.

It comes after discussions were held between Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and the devolved administrations on Wednesday,

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, she said the proposal could be made public “in the coming days”.

She said: “We discussed the Christmas period and how we could come to a sensible – and I stress sensible – and safe plan that would allow people, not 100% normality, but a greater degree of normality – in particular the ability to spend some time with loved ones.

“From that meeting yesterday, we charged our officials – advised by our respective chief medical officers – to put together a concrete proposal that we will then consider and hopefully announce the detail of in the coming days.

“I would hope … we could share that with the public over the course of next week.”

The First Minister said, due to the spread of families across the UK, that she is “determined” to come to a four-nations agreement on what the proposals will look like.

She added: “We are all determined to, as best as we possibly can, strike the right balance between the understandable desire, which I share, to see family over the Christmas period – which is so special to so many of us – but also to do that in a way that does not lead to increased loss of life and increased harm to health over the January period.”

Ruth Davidson
Ruth Davidson

The Scottish Conservatives’ Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson asked the First Minister if the easing of restrictions at Christmas would mean a “January shutdown” after Public Health England director Dr Susan Hopkins said five days of tighter restrictions would be needed for every day where measures were relaxed.

The First Minister said her advisers are “interrogating” Dr Hopkins’ assertion, as well as if the tighter restrictions would only be needed for five days if measures are relaxed completely.

She said: “The reason why all four governments asked for a proposal to come forward that was fully informed by the chief medical officers is to make sure that we factor in all of that kind of assessment.”

Ms Davidson asked if the restrictions on Level 3 and Level 4 local authorities currently in place or coming into force on Friday “were the price” for mixing at Christmas or if there will be tighter restrictions levied later.

The First Minister said she is unsure what will be needed in January, adding: “When I as First Minister, advised by those who advise me, have a deeper understanding of (possible tighter restrictions in January), I will set that out clearly.

“I am not going to speculate right now on five days for every one day because I have not seen what underpins that particular opinion.”

Ms Sturgeon reiterated there will be a “difficult balance to strike”, adding she does not want to “be in the position to have to announce numbers or the country having to live with more bereaved families and a death toll that could have been avoidable if we get this balance wrong”.