SCOTLAND”S top police officer has warned that people will face arrest or fines if they “continue to wilfully refuse to obey the law” by ignoring social distancing rules this weekend.

Police Scotland's Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said that more than 500 fixed penalty notices have been issued by officers to people flouting the vital rules - but stressed he would not expect officers to be patrolling supermarket aisles as had been touted by some bosses in England.

Mr Livingstone said that “the vast majority” of people in Scotland are continuing to adhere to the rules - and added that officers will “explain legal instructions, encourage compliance and when needed, enforce the law”.

The warning came as Nicola Sturgeon announced there have been 48 further deaths from Covid-19, taking the total deaths in Scotland to 495.  

The First Minister stressed that people cannot afford "one little slip" to visit relatives or friends on Easter Sunday, breaking the rules.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Scotland: Lockdown measures must be respected over Easter weekend

She added:"We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent against this virus and end these measures prematurely.

"If we did that, we would risk undoing all of the work we've put in so far and we would risk seeing the virus spread out of control - potentially very quickly. We know that would cost more lives."

Police have issued a total of 537 fixed penalty notices so far, including 113 in Glasgow, 67 in Renfrewshire and 57 in Lanarkshire.

Officers have asked groups to disperse more than 1,400 times while gatherings were issued with warnings on 464 occasions since enforcements started.

A total of 35 people have been arrested by Police Scotland while citizens were returned to their homes 58 times using "reasonable force" by officers.

Mr Livingstone added: “One specific example I could share is a house in the Scottish Borders where a group of people had gone to spend some time.

“The police service went there late morning, told them they shouldn’t have been there gathering - a clear breach of the guidance, and we left. However, they didn’t comply.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Scotland: Number of deaths as a result of pandemic rises to 495

“We were required to return a number of hours later. A number of the five were arrested, a number were issued with fixed penalties.

“We will always seek to engage and educate, but if people continue to wilfully refuse to obey the law and wilfully refuse to play their part in combatting the coronavirus, we will take action and we will enforce the law.”

Mr Livingstone was asked whether Police Scotland will patrol supermarkets after some officers south of the border said they were checking whether supermarket customers were picking up non-essential items.

But the Chief Constable stressed that “right from the outset” of the Covid-19 outbreak, he has “expected Police Scotland to use common sense”.

He added: “I would not expect patrolling of supermarket aisles.

“I would expect our officers to be visible, to be engaged with people wherever they happen to be. I would not expect such prescriptive action.”

The Chief Constable appealed to the public to continue to stick to the rules to help the fight against the pandemic and slow the spread of the disease.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Scotland: Police hand out 25 fines to people flouting lockdown rules

He said: “Policing in Scotland will always seek to be fair, reasonable and proportionate. That is why I have invited a leading human rights lawyer to review our use of the emergency powers.

”I ask all our fellow citizens to continue their support and cooperation, as demonstrated in recent weeks.”

He added: “If you are out and about, officers may ask you why. I would encourage you to engage with officers, explain your circumstances and listen to and act upon any advice given.

“If we all do the right thing to maintain social distancing, stay home and keep safe, we will protect the NHS. If you need help and support from the police service, contact us - we are there to help you.”

Scotland's national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, urged people to "stay the course, stay at home".

He added: "It's really difficult over the Easter weekend but we are not in a position to advise the politicians of the four countries to relax any of those measures yet."