Nicola Sturgeon has warned that “more people will die” if mixed messages lead to people in Scotland flouting lockdown restrictions. 

The First Minister condemned Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus advice as “vague and imprecise” as she announced Scots will now be allowed to exercise outside as many times a day as they want.

She said further restrictions around outdoor activities and garden centres may also be relaxed in the next week or so, but she stressed picnics, sunbathing and BBQs remain off limits for now.

The First Minister asked the UK Government not to publicise its new “Stay Alert” message in Scotland as advice north of the Border remains to “Stay at Home”.
She criticised Mr Johnson’s new slogan, saying she did not know what it means in practice.

Ms Sturgeon said: “For Scotland right now, given the fragility of the progress we’ve made, given the critical point that we are at, it would be catastrophic for me to drop the stay at home message, which is why I’m not prepared to do it.

“And I’m particularly not prepared to do it in favour of a message that is vague and imprecise.”

Ms Sturgeon also criticised the fact she had learned about the UK Government’s latest plans through reading the Sunday newspapers.

She said: “I think the Prime Minister is well aware of my view that reading of each other’s plans in the newspaper for the first time is not a helpful or a sensible way to proceed.”

Last night Mr Johnson, in relation to England, insisted there would be “no immediate end” to the lockdown but set out a roadmap that could see a phased re-opening of some schools, shops and even parts of the hospitality industry by July.

From Wednesday, he said people in England will be able to “sit in the sun in your local park”, drive to other destinations and even play sports with members of their household.

Meanwhile, he said anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction and manufacturing, “should be actively encouraged to go to work”.

Today, a 50-page UK Government report will be published setting out the “milestones” it hopes to reach in the coming weeks and months to gradually unlock many of the current restrictions.

The First Minister said the lockdown in Scotland remains in place, but relaxed the guidance around outdoor exercise. 

She said: “At present you are only permitted to leave home to exercise once every day. 

“From [today], that once a day limit will be removed. 

“So if you want to go for a walk more often, or to go for a run and also a walk later on in the day then you can now do so.”

However she said the new advice does not apply if anyone in a household has symptoms of coronavirus. Nor does it apply to those who have received a letter explaining they are in a shielded group. She added: “In those cases the advice is still to stay at home completely and not go out at all.

“All other lockdown restrictions remain in place. When you are exercising, you must stay relatively close to your own home and at all times at least two metres away from people from other households. 

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“And although the rules permit exercise such as walking or running or cycling, they do not yet extend to outdoor leisure activities such as sunbathing, picnics or barbecues.

“The fact you are allowed to exercise from [today] more than once is definitely not, and I want to stress this point, a licence to start meeting up in groups, at the park or at the beach. 

“Doing that really does risk spreading this virus and it could potentially force us to reintroduce stricter guidelines or toughen up the regulations and penalties in future.”

Ms Sturgeon said ministers will “assess further whether it is possible to extend the range of permissible outdoor activities that you can do on your own or at a safe distance” in the coming week.

She added: “We will also consider over the coming days whether garden centres can re-open, and we will think about whether some additional forms of outdoor work – particularly where people work on their own or at a distance – can safely resume.”

The First Minister said she would also be looking “urgently” at the possibility of reopening waste and recycling centres in consultation with local authorities. 

A further update is due next weekend.

However, Ms Sturgeon said she did not expect schools in Scotland to 
return as early as June, as is planned down south.

Figures show there have now been 1,857 confirmed coronavirus deaths 
in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland’s R number – the reproduction rate of the virus – is still too high for any significant changes to the lockdown.

Evidence suggests the R number is slightly higher in Scotland than it is in the rest of the UK.

She said: “We mustn’t squander our progress by easing up too soon, 
or by sending mixed messages that result in people thinking that it’s okay to ease up now.

“Let me be very blunt about the consequences if we were to do that: people will die unnecessarily, and instead of being able to loosen restrictions hopefully in the near future, we will be faced instead with having to tighten them. 

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“We must not take that risk. So for that reason my basic message for Scotland remains the same as it has been: please stay at home except for essential purposes.”

The leaders of all the devolved nations have rejected Mr Johnson’s new “stay alert” advice in favour of keeping the “stay at home” message.

The Prime Minister unveiled his plans to ease the lockdown in a broadcast to the nation last night.

He is now telling people in England to “stay at home as much as possible”, keep two metres apart when going out and “limit contact” with other people.

But the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said they had not been consulted over the “stay alert, control the virus and save lives” slogan.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson’s broadcast did not provide the country with clarity or consensus.

He said: “This statement raises more questions than it answers, and we see the prospect of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland pulling in different directions.”

Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh accused the Prime Minister of having “decided to go it alone on messaging”, adding: “This isn’t only disrespectful, it’s dangerous.”

Behavioural expert Professor Susan Michie, who is a member of the scientific advisory group for emergencies, said the new slogan is “a long way from” being clear and consistent.

Mr Johnson announced the creation of a new Covid Alert System run by a “Joint Biosecurity Centre”, which will indicate how strict the social distancing measures should be.

There will be five levels; the higher the level, the stricter the restrictions will have to be. 

Level One means the virus is eliminated; Level Five it is at its most virulent. 
The country had been at Level Four, the Prime Minister explained, but was now in a position to begin moves to Level Three. 

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “We need to see the evidence and hear from the scientists as to what has changed. 

“The sudden change from the Prime Minister to abandon the stay at home message and to encourage people to go to work needs a full explanation 
if the public are to trust him and follow him. 

“The route map to gradually release the lockdown has some merit but the milestones need further scrutiny. 

“The First Minister has set out the differences with the guidance in England but she and her scientists need to explain whether Scotland is at greater risk, which justifies a different message.”