NICOLA Sturgeon has told building sites to shut down unless they are helping construct hospital or medical facilities. 

The stern warning came amid concerns and confusion about who should still be going to work during the lockdown announced by the First Minister on Monday evening. 

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that she hopes the financial support made available to businesses will mean that employers do “not lay staff off unnecessarily”. 

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She added that if businesses are not contributing to the fight against the coronavirus outbreak and cannot put social distancing measures in place, “in our view, you should not continue to be open”. 

Ms Sturgeon addressed the fears over building sites, some of which continued to operate yesterday despite the lockdown. 

She said: "We have been asked specifically about construction sites in Scotland - our advice right now on the basis of that precautionary principle, is that we would expect them to be closed, unless the building that is being worked on is essential – such as a hospital. 

 “We know that for some people, such as self-employed gardeners and window cleaners where there is no contact with other people, if they can go about their business safely, then this could be good for the community and we would encourage them to do so." 

The trade had earlier called for clarity amid the confusion as to who should continue going to work. 

Vaughan Hart, managing director of the Scottish Building Federation (SBF), said: “The priority for all businesses working in the construction sector is always the safety and security of those working on sites but the conflicting information from the UK and Scottish Government’s is unhelpful and we would urge them to clarify this as a matter of urgency so the industry can respond in a uniform manner. 

“SBF is working collaboratively with other key federations and associations to respond to the incredible volume of calls we have taken from our members but without absolute clarity on the situation from government, we risk a situation developing of different companies reacting in different ways which could be detrimental. 

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“There will be a need for some staff in some circumstances to be on site to ensure they are kept safe but we need to know exactly what is expected of us in other instances so we can play our part in reducing the impact of Covid-19 on our team and wider Scottish society.” 

Ms Sturgeon said that messaging with the UK Government has been “as consistent as possible”. 

She added: “On construction, for example, my judgement, based on the advice I have, is that right now the safest, most precautionary  principle is for construction sites not to continue.”