Nicola Sturgeon: Scots 5-tier lockdown 'targeted and proportionate'
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The new system will come into effect north of the Border on Monday November 2 and will apply individually across each of Scotland's 32 local authority areas. There could even be different restrictions applied within different local council regions - or a nationwide approach to restrictions if required.
But there are concerns that the potentially different approach across so many areas may lead to confusion among the public.
The First Minister revealed today that MSPs at Holyrood will be asked to endorse the new framework next week. The decisions about which level of restriction – 0-4 – applies in each area of Scotland will then be taken.
"The approach will be targeted and proportionate," Ms Sturgeon said.
"We envisage that the building blocks for decision will be local authorities rather than health boards.
"It may sometimes be clusters of local authorities within health boards are on the same level.
"But partly for reasons of democratic accountability and partly because people generally understand more, they might not understand them perfectly, but understand more about what local authority they live in than what health board they live and what the boundaries of them are."
Keeping school open will remain the key objective across all five levels, which were unveiled today by Ms Sturgeon.
Scotland has recorded 18 coronavirus deaths and 1,401 positive cases in the past 24 hours, Ms Sturgeon said, but she added the infection rate appears to be slowing.
The five levels range from zero, which the First Minister said would be as close to normal as the country can be without effective treatment or a vaccine, to the highest level of four, which is "closer to a full lockdown".
She stressed Scotland is "not back at square one", and the framework is intended to build on the progress made in tackling the virus.
The levels will be reviewed on a weekly basis, the First Minister said.
Level 0 will be as close to normality without a vaccine, similar to the situation in August when Scotland first emerged from spring lockdown. And Level 1 sees slightly more restrictions, with household meetings reduced to six people from two households, but there would still be a reasonable degree of normality overall.
Level 2 entails restrictions broadly similar to those currently in place just now outside the Central Belt, with limitations on hospitality and no gatherings inside people's homes.
Level 3 will broadly mirror the tougher restrictions which currently apply across the Central Belt, with much of hospitality being closed completely, although restaurants would be allowed limited opening time under this approach.
Level 4 would be closer to a “full lockdown”, Ms Sturgeon added today, and would mean non-essential shops would have to close.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Even under Level 4 restrictions, six people from up two households could still meet outdoors, there would be no limit on outdoor exercise for individuals, and we would seek to keep manufacturing and construction businesses open, albeit with safety measures in place.”
The new set of restrictions has been anticipated since a similar three-tiered system was introduced in England by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In Scotland the three central levels broadly mirror those south of the border. But Ms Sturgeon said a lower level was needed as a base for where the country is "aspiring to get to in its fight against the virus. At the top end, there were concerns that the highest Level 3 in England may not be comprehensive enough to suppress future transmission of the virus prompting an eve stricter level 4 north of the border.
The First Minister warned Scots today that “some level of restrictions” are likely across the country until a vaccine of better treatment is found.
But areas like the Highlands, where rates of the virus are low should not be the same as restrictions in place across the central belt.
"This is about being more proportionate, more targeted and having an approach that says we need the level of restrictions necessary to control the virus, but we don't want any level of restrictions than are more severe than they need to be."
She added: "It's hard, it's tough, it's depressing, I know that but we have no alternative but to stick with it and acting together in the collective interests of the country get ourselves through it."
But political opponents warned there is a need for greater clarity over how the new system will operate.
Labour leader Richard Leonard said: "It is vital that there is clarity over what restrictions people are living under and for how long they can expect to be under these restrictions.
“With the potential for different areas of the country to be under different regulations, there exists a real danger of confusion among the public, putting health at risk.
“The support for businesses is to be welcomed, but there must be greater support for workers over the coming months. It is of paramount importance that the Scottish and UK governments co-operate to ensure that businesses and workers get the support they need."
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has stressed the need for “hope and clarity” about people’s ability to move between different tiers of restrictions.
"The criteria for moving between levels must be clear this time, not open-ended rolling limits that are so vague that only a small number of people in government HQ can understand," he said.
“This plan must offer people clarity on how their area can move between tiers. The public needs certainty that their sacrifices will make a difference and hope that if they comply their freedoms will be returned.