Nicola Sturgeon: We are trying to be as helpful as possible
The First Minister announced a strict travel ban preventing people travelling over the Scottish border during the festive season over fears surrounding the new strain of the virus. At the same time, Ms Sturgeon announced Scotland would be plunged back into full lockdown from Boxing Day.
Scots will also only be permitted to mix with each other for a one-day period on Christmas Day while a physical return to schools will be delayed until mid-January.
The First Minister’s decision came just after Boris Johnson plunged 18 million Brits in London and the South East into lockdown under Tier 4 rules.
Medical and scientific experts said a new form of the virus – called VUI2020/01 had a transmission rate up to 70 percent higher than strains already prevalent across the UK.
Some of Nicola Sturgeon’s hardest critics admitted “sacrifices save lives” whilst others challenged to cross the border in defiance of the new travel ban.
Former Respect MP and Alliance 4 Unity founder George Galloway, claimed on Twitter he would cross the border on Monday.
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Challenging the First Minister, he added: “I’m crossing it on Monday. Sturgeon won’t stop me.”
Kathy Gyngell, Editor of The Conservative Woman magazine said her friend had flown from London Heathrow to Edinburgh Airport without any problems this morning.
She added: “They’ve taken off. They’ve landed. They’re there for Christmas.
“What closed border? What roadblocks? How can they enforce this? Answer: they cannot.”
The laws have been in place for several weeks but have yet to be widely enforced by police.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing last night, Ms Sturgeon said she will talk to police and transport operators to see how this can be “strengthened”.
But Police Scotland last night admitted the ban will not be enforced by road blocks or routine stops.
In a statement to The Scottish Sunday Express, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs has now said enforcement of the travel restrictions would continue to be a “last resort”.
Police have the power to issue £60 fines to rule-breakers, although these are halved to £30 if paid within 28 days.
On lockdown, the whole of mainland Scotland will be placed into the Level 4 restrictions – the highest of the five tiers for at least three weeks on Boxing Day.
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This means non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants will have to shut except for takeaways, drive-throughs and deliveries and only essential travel will be permitted.
The Scottish islands including Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles will be placed in Level 3, with greater restrictions on gatherings and hospitality.
Schools will continue as normal for the final few days of this term until the start of the Christmas break.
The Christmas holiday is now being extended until January 11 for the majority of pupils, although schools will still reopen as scheduled for the most vulnerable and children of key workers.
But Ms Sturgeon said teaching will be done online for at least the first week of the new term.
Reacting to the measures, Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross, said: “Families across Scotland will be devastated at these new measures, especially so close to Christmas.
“However, given the rapidly increasing spread of the virus across the UK, and until our scientists know more about the transmission of this new variant, it is understandable why these restrictions are necessary at this time.
“None of us want this, but these sacrifices will save lives.
“We would expect the Scottish Government to ensure a return to regional levels of restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Scotland’s retail chief estimated the shutdown could see shops miss out on £135 million in lost revenue each week during the traditionally-busy shopping period after Christmas.
David Lonsdale, the Scottish Retail Consortium director, called for additional financial support for shops and an extension of business rates relief into 2021-22.
Mr Lonsdale said: “We recognise that Government has difficult decisions to make and the situation with the pandemic is fast-moving, but this hugely disappointing news rounds off a torrid year for Scottish retail and is a further hammer-blow to non-food stores who have already borne so much during this crisis.
“The consequences of this move could be severe.”
Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director also warned people should not be meeting at Christmas “just to have a party”.
Jason Leitch said Christmas bubbles should be used to “help with social isolation and caring” but not “just for Christmas, just for a party, just so they can see people who they’ve missed”.
He said: “I will not be seeing my 80-year-old parents on Christmas Day for the first time in my whole life.
“But I want to have another 15 Christmases with them, that’s why.”
A total of 17 cases of the new strain had been identified in Scotland and may be driving faster transmission of Covid in some hospitals and care homes.
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