Politics

Covid Scotland: Sturgeon set to recall MSPs to discuss restrictions before New Year

NICOLA Sturgeon is likely to recall the Scottish Parliament before the New Year to discuss introducing further Covid restrictions if infection rates continue to spiral, we can exclusively reveal.

Multiple sources have told The Herald that the First Minister wants Holyrood to discuss bringing in new measures to help combat the spread of the dominant Omicron variant of the virus.

Tuesday, December 28 is being mooted as the date for the return to the chamber.

Full details of the extent of further measures being introduced are not yet clear, however it comes as key government advisers on the pandemic have pushed for another circuit-breaker lockdown to help reduce transmission.

The move would come as another brutal blow to the already hampered hospitality industry, with further restrictions bringing the probability of Hogmanay events being cancelled.

The plans could also scupper the traditional New Year football match between Celtic and Rangers at Parkhead, set to be attended by tens of thousands of supporters on January 2.

Earlier this week, Scots were urged to minimise their social contacts and limit interactions to a maximum of three households at once in a bid to curb infections. New guidance also came into forced on Friday setting out mitigations which should be adopted in retail and hospitality venues.

However, in a letter to Boris Johnson on Friday, Ms Sturgeon warned the Prime Minister that “restrictions on the operation of higher-risk settings, while of course undesirable, may now be unavoidable”.


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She urged the UK Government to either reinstate the furlough scheme or give the devolved administrations the means to set up similar initiatives on their own.

Speaking at a press briefing on the same day, Ms Sturgeon confirmed she would consider imposing restrictions on “high-risk venues” such as pubs and nightclubs if furlough was introduced.

She said indoor venues with “poorer ventilation, where people come together in small, crowded places often with alcohol involved” could face tighter controls.

Earlier this evening, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford drew further speculation after suggesting The Netherlands, which just announced a strict lockdown, would not be the only country to do so. 

He posted on Twitter: “It is a tough call to go into lockdown, no Govt wants to take action unless wholly necessary but the mood music is that this will not only be happening in The Netherlands.

“Checking the spread of Omicron is the priority to stop the NHS becoming overwhelmed”.

The revelations come amid heightened discussions around a circuit-breaker in recent days, after it was reported UK Government officials are also drawing up draft plans for a two-week lockdown after Christmas.

The Financial Times reported that Boris Johnson was presented with several options on Friday under a so-called Plan C, ranging from “mild guidance to nudge people, right through to lockdown”.

The newspaper quoted allies of the Prime Minister who claimed Mr Johnson still wanted to go down the guidance route, but that he also had to be realistic about the threat of Omicron.

Leaked minutes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), seen by the BBC, said scientists had told ministers that tougher measures need to be brought in “very soon”.

It’s claimed the advisers had recommended moving to restrictions seen in step one and two of the easing of lockdown restrictions in the spring. This included a ban on indoor mixing and indoor hospitality.

They reportedly warned against delaying further interventions until 2022.

Latest figures in Scotland:

Scotland has recorded nine new coronavirus deaths and 5,917 positive cases in the past 24 hours.

The daily figures from the Scottish Government show 494 people are in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, of which 34 are in intensive care.

The Covid-19 death toll in Scotland under the daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – now stands at 9,780.

The test positivity rate stands at 12.2%.

A total of 4,369,398 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine while 3,988,961 have received their second dose and 2,436,952 have received a third dose or booster.

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