Lockdown Exit Strategy
The statement by the First Minister this week in Parliament on our pathway out of lockdown and some sense of normal life is very much welcomed.
Stay at Home regulations will be lifted on 2 April and replaced with guidance to Stay Local, with more services including hairdressers, garden centres and non-essential click and collect services able to open from 5 April.
More college students will also return to on-campus learning and outdoor contact sports will resume for 12-17 year olds on 5 April if progress on vaccination and suppression of the virus continues.
The Scottish Government then hopes to lift all restrictions on journeys in mainland Scotland on 26 April. Discussions will be held with island communities already in lower levels on the possibility of having a faster return to more socialising and hospitality with restrictions on mainland travel to protect against importation of the virus.
Vaccination of all nine JCVI priority groups – more than half of the population, accounting for 99% of COVID-related fatalities – is expected to be completed by mid-April, supplies allowing. The dates outlined are enabled by strong new evidence that suggests vaccines reduce the chances of transmitting the virus as well as reducing serious illness and death, even after a first dose.
Further expected easing on 26 April includes:
- all retail premises, libraries, museums and galleries, tourist accommodation would be able to open
- the hospitality sector would be able to reopen outdoors for the service of alcohol, and potentially open indoors for non-alcohol service
- up to four people from two households could be able to socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant
- six people from up to three households could be able to meet outdoors and the limit on wedding and funeral attendance could be raised to 50 people
- gyms and swimming pools would be open for individual exercise and non-essential childcare would be permitted
- non-essential work in peoples’ homes and driving lessons could resume from this date
On 17 May, it is hoped that groups of four people from two households would be able to socialise indoors in a private home, and that cinemas, amusement arcades and small scale outdoor and indoor events could restart with limits on capacity. Further easing on this date would include outdoor contact sport for adults and indoor group exercise
The First Minister also indicated that in early June it is hoped that Scotland could move to Level 1 and by end of June to level 0.
The full details on the timetable for easing can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-timetable-for-easing-restrictions/
Please continue to follow the updated Scottish Government guidance which can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19//
Scotland’s vaccination programme has do far delivered first doses of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to more than two million people – 44% of the adult population.
The national vaccination programme continues to move through groups 6 and 7 on the priority list which includes those with particular underlying health conditions and unpaid carers. A self-referral online service has been launched here https://www.nhsinform.scot/covid-19-vaccine/invitations-and-appointments/registering-for-a-coronavirus-vaccine to enable any eligible unpaid carers who have not received an invitation to register themselves.
As groups 6 and 7 progress, scheduling appointments have begun for the next priority groups which are group 8 (age 55-59 years) and 9 (age 50-54 years) with vaccinations for these groups beginning at the start of this week.
Landmark legislation the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill was passed in Parliament this week which will ensure public authorities are bound by law to uphold the rights of children and young people under 18.
This is legislation will deliver a fundamental shift in the way children and young people’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in Scotland.
On the same day, it was revealed that the Tory government at Westminster plans to expand the stockpile of nuclear weapons by 40% – just two months after the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into effect.
There is no doubt that the Scottish Parliament election comes down to the issue of what kind of country Scotland wants to be – one which puts bairns before bombs, protects the rights of our citizens and gives every child the best start in life, or one which spends billions of pounds prioritising weapons of mass destruction on our shores.
MSPs this week passed legislation giving more powers to police and courts to protect people at risk of domestic abuse.
The Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill will enable police and courts to ban suspected abusers from re-entering the home and from approaching or contacting the person at risk for a period of time to enable them to consider their longer-term options around safety and housing. The Bill will also allow social landlords to end or transfer the tenancy of a perpetrator of domestic abuse to the victim.
Together, these measures should reduce the risk that victims of domestic abuse end up having to become homeless in order to escape their abuser.
Women, families and children are among those who will benefit from separate funds worth a total of £18 million to improve drugs services.
Four schemes are planned for May with the funds coming from the additional £250 million announced by the First Minister to tackle the drug deaths emergency over the next five years.
The four projects will aim to develop consistent treatment standards around the country and ensure more people can get access to services that can reduce harm, provide treatment and ultimately save their lives.
The four funds are:
- a £5 million Communities Fund to provide resources to community and third sector organisations to increase capacity
- a £5 million Improvement Fund to support improvements to services for outreach, treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare, with dedicated support for women
- a £3 million Families and Children Fund to support the families of those affected by drug misuse during treatment
- a £5 million Recovery Fund for additional residential rehabilitation capacity
Great news this week with the announcement that the Scottish Government is taking over the running of the country’s rail franchise.
ScotRail services will move into public sector control when the current franchise with Abellio expires – expected to happen in March 2022.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson announced that rail services will be run by an arm’s length company owned and controlled by the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government’s decision to run our railways through what it known as the ‘Operator of Last Resort’ has been shaped by a number of factors, including faults with the current franchising system, uncertainty from a year-long delay in the UK Government’s rail review and the effects of the Covid pandemic.
This bold move will bring welcome stability and certainty to those who use our railway for work and leisure across the country.
The SNP have long argued that the future structure of Scottish railways should be in Scotland’s hands. It’s well beyond time that the Tory UK Government listened and devolved rail powers to Holyrood.
A new £70 million Scottish Government fund to improve recycling infrastructure across Scotland launched on Global Recycling Day.
Local authorities across Scotland are being urged to apply to the fund, which opens next week, to help drive new innovations and improvements to recycling in their area and across the country.
The five-year £70 million Recycling Improvement Fund, which was part of the Programme for Government, aims to accelerate progress towards Scotland’s ambitious waste and recycling targets and net zero commitment.
It is one of the biggest single investments by the Scottish Government in recycling infrastructure to date. This will give local authorities the opportunity to take forward projects that increase both the quality and quantity of recycling whilst delivering wider environmental benefits.
This could include promoting waste prevention or reuse, improving the consistency of collections, collecting problematic materials such as electrical items, improving sorting and treatment infrastructure, or introducing new low-carbon technologies.
Please keep following the Scottish Government guidance https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/ and remember the FACTS: Face coverings, Avoid crowded places, Clean hands and surfaces regularly, Two metre distancing; and Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.