Coronavirus Christmas rules likely to be tightened in Scotland, says Sturgeon

Rules allowing people to meet up at Christmas in Scotland are likely to be tightened when they are set out on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The UK Government and devolved administrations have agreed a joint plan to relax social distancing rules over the festive period, allowing three households to mix from December 23 to 27.

During her daily Covid-19 briefing on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon said guidance about the festive period to be issued on Thursday is still being finalised.

She said: “The expectation should be that the guidance will probably look to tighten around the edges rather than further expand and that will be true with the travel window of opportunity as well – we want to limit that window, not expand it.”

Ms Sturgeon said in England, due to the current form of bubbles there, “three households there, potentially, depending on how they draw the guidance, could effectively become six households”.

The First Minister added: “I think that would be going too far and it would not be something I would be comfortable with in Scotland.”

Scotland currently has a different form of bubbles than England – north of the border, one person who lives alone or with children under the age of 18 can join another household and become an extended household.

Ms Sturgeon asked Scots not to visit relatives in other households over Christmas if they can help it, despite the relaxation of rules.

“If you can get through this Christmas staying in your own home, within your own household, please do so,” she said.

“I want to stress today that just because we’re allowing people to form a bubble (that) does not mean that you have to do it,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“If you do choose to do it at all, you don’t have to do it to the maximum permitted.

“We are relying on people to make informed choices about whether or not to come together at all over the Christmas period.”

SCOTLAND Coronavirus
SCOTLAND Coronavirus

Scotland has recorded 44 coronavirus deaths and 880 positive tests in the past 24 hours, Ms Sturgeon said, bringing the total number of fatalities under daily measures to 3,588.

But data released by the National Records of Scotland show 5,380 people have died with confirmed or suspected coronavirus since the pandemic began.

Ms Sturgeon said: “These are all difficult things to live by. As we head towards Christmas all of this will feel even more difficult – and that is saying something – than it has over these past eight months.

“As we go through this tough winter and tough festive period for all of us, let’s keep our eyes on that light that is getting brighter almost every day that passes right now that is there on the horizon.

“The end is in sight, let’s not forget that as we keep ourselves motivated through the remainder of this pandemic.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

The First Minister also used the briefing to urge Chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide clarity on funding coming to Scotland as a result of Wednesday’s Spending Review.

Ms Sturgeon said while the Scottish Government welcomes some of the actions already taken by the Chancellor – such as the extension of the furlough scheme until the spring – support will still be necessary for some people and companies.

“The kind of areas I’m talking about would include rates relief for businesses and the uplift to Universal Credit for households and individuals,” she said.

“We’re very much hoping that today’s statement brings clarity and positive news on these issues.

“That would be very important in providing certainty as all of us continue to deal with the immediate impact of Covid.

“And it would provide the Scottish Government with greater clarity as we prepare our own budget, which will be presented to the Scottish Parliament in January.”