In Depth

Scotland’s plan for ending the coronavirus lockdown

Nicola Sturgeon’s blueprint for lifting restrictions piles the pressure on Westminster

Scotland’s first minister has laid out a blueprint for how the country plans to lift its coronavirus lockdown measures, ramping up pressure on Westminster to do the same.

In a document published on the Scottish government’s website, Nicola Sturgeon set out how the country’s parliament will go about easing restrictions, but warned that the measures may be reimposed multiple times with “little notice”.

And while it did not explicitly lay out a timetable for measures to be lifted, the document also states that “now is not the right time” to end the lockdown, as the country’s death toll hit 1,120 on Thursday after another 58 deaths were reported, says ITV News.

But what is Scotland’s plan, and could Westminster follow suit?

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What did Nicola Sturgeon announce today?

The Telegraph reports that earlier today, Sturgeon became the “first leader in the Union to announce plans to begin lifting lockdown” by publishing a 26-page document.

In it, the Scottish government says that it will first attempt to suppress the virus through compliance with physical distancing and hygiene measures, ensuring that the virus’s R value remains below one.

It also states that it will provide care to those who need it, whether infected by the virus or not, as well as supporting people, businesses and organisations affected by the crisis.

The government will also aim to recover to a new normal, carefully easing restrictions when safe to do so while maintaining necessary measures, and using lessons learned during this pandemic to protect against future events, including through effective testing, contact tracing and isolation.

It then plans to “Renew” the country through green initiatives and social programmes, concluding: “We can work together to design the Scotland we want to emerge from this crisis.”

The document warns that attending pubs or public events will be “banned or restricted for some time to come” – without giving a detailed timetable.

The Guardian reports that the document “warns the public to expect a cycle of lifting and re-imposing restrictions, with the possibility of restrictions being re-imposed quickly if transmission suddenly escalates”.

What does this mean for the rest of the UK?

Sturgeon said she isn’t currently focused on “whether we have a Scottish approach or a UK wide approach”, but was instead aiming for one that was “the best approach to tackling this virus”.

However, the blueprint says it was “unlikely” the virus could be contained domestically “without some form of surveillance of those coming into the country from elsewhere” – an addition the Telegraph calls a “direct warning to Boris Johnson”.

It also says Scotland supports “early and rapid testing to confirm cases” and “tracing of everyone a confirmed case has been in contact with”.

“Increasing our testing capacity is a critical part of this challenge,” the paper adds, another potential jab at the response so far from Downing Street.

The Independent says Scotland’s plans are now “at odds with the approach in Westminster”, where “ministers have refused to set out their plans for easing the lockdown amid fears it could confuse the message to the public to stay at home”.

The paper adds that the cabinet is currently “divided” over the best approach for lifting measures, with “more hawkish ministers such as the chancellor Rishi Sunak deeply concerned about the economic devastation caused by a lengthy lockdown”.

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