Scotland’s ‘stay local’ lockdown rule will be axed 10 days early from this Friday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced today.
People in Scotland were told to stay in their local council area, except for any essential reason, until April 26.
But announcing an early easing of lockdown, Ms Sturgeon said that date will be brought forward to this Friday, April 16.
From Friday morning, people will be able to travel anywhere within Scotland for outdoor socialising, recreation or informal exercise.
Meanwhile travel to and from the rest of the UK, including England and Wales, is expected to restart from April 26 – but people can mostly only meet outdoors.
But while seeking a UK agreement on travel, Ms Sturgeon Scots might have to endure restrictions on international travel for far longer as “the price we pay” for fewer restrictions within Scotland.
Meanwhile the rule on the size of outdoor gatherings will be relaxed early this week too.
Currently there is a maximum of four adults from two households. From this Friday, it will change to a cap of six adults from any number of households.
The limit of six people will not include any children under 12, who can attend an outdoor gathering additionally to six adults.
The SNP leader insisted the upcoming Holyrood election – where she is seeking a majority she can use to push for independence – was “not a consideration at all” in bringing her roadmap forward.
It followed an almost seven-month low in cases on Monday, with just 199 cases.
She insisted the data – with only 133 Covid patients in Scottish hospitals, down 21 from yesterday – does not allow us “to simply throw caution to the wind…. but it does give us a bit of limited headroom”.
Ms Sturgeon warned the virus won’t “magically blow away – it will come back if we allow it to come back”.
The First Minister claimed she had “effectively” met the target of offering a first dose of vaccine to all over-50s and priority groups, after England hailed hitting it early.
She said “virtually all” over-60s have received a first dose, as have 96% of those aged 55 to 59 – and 84% of those aged 50 to 54.
She added appointments will be issued “shortly” to the first healthy under-50s after England already invited those aged 45-49 to apply.
But she declined to go further than saying Scotland had “effectively” hit the target.
She added: “I’m using the word effectively just to recognise that in any big system it’s possible somebody’s has been missed.
“I don’t want to stand here and say everybody has been offered the vaccine and then somebody in one of these groups says ‘I haven’t had mine’.
“When you’re dealing with this big scale of a system you will always… there will be some people falling through the cracks.”
Elsewhere, Ms Sturgeon said she was now “extremely confident” that most of Scotland that is still in Level 4 will move to Level 3 on April 26.
This will allow shops to fully reopen and pubs, cafes and restaurants to open outdoors until 10pm.
Indoors, hospitality venues will be able to open until 8pm from April 26 – but with no alcohol and a limit of up to four people from two households at each table.
Ms Sturgeon insisted this limited reopening was three weeks ahead of any indoor hospitality opening in England.
Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and other islands already in Level 3 will stay at that level, even though they could move to Level 2, because it will allow people to travel freely to the mainland.
From May 17, pubs are set to open indoors until 10:30pm and contact sports, cinemas, and some small scale events can take place.