NICOLA Sturgeon was right to say she does not understand what is meant by Boris Johnson’s new message in England, “stay alert”. However alert you are, viruses are invisible and hearing an occasional cough won’t help much. However, she was wrong to continue the “Stay at Home” message.

The fundamental point is we know that physical distancing is the single most important measure for breaking the transmission of the virus. Moreover, the Scottish Government’s own scientific advisory group confirmed last week that the risk of the virus being transmitted outdoors is “significantly lower than indoors” (where there are also hard surfaces that help transmit the virus). That is presumably why the Scottish Government has now lifted its advisory limits on physical exercise; as long as we do this while maintaining physical distancing, it’s safe.

In failing to adapt its overall message, the Scottish Government, like the UK Government, is unfortunately also creating confusion. How does the quote in your front page headline, “If we don’t stay at home now, more people will die” (The Herald, May 11), fit with the new guidance that it’s safe to go out for physical exercise more than once a day? How can it be that sunbathing, which has been singled out for social opprobrium from the start of this crisis, or that angling will cost lives (“Anglers drop a line in plea to resume fishing”, The Herald, May 9)? They clearly won’t and the Scottish Government has confirmed this by suggesting that controls on other outdoor activities might be lifted next week. That could have been done this week if it had been brave enough to adopt a new message, “Stay Apart”.

That message, Stay Apart, is applicable to all areas of life and would provide a sound framework for managing Covid-19 for the foreseeable future. It would enable most work that takes place outdoors, where it’s generally easy for people to maintain physical distancing, to resume next week. The Stay at Home message has resulted in people doing solitary jobs outdoors, like wildlife surveying, being unnecessarily confined to their homes for weeks. That has done nothing to save lives in Care Homes. The Stay Apart message could be also used to determine what other jobs could restart, on the proviso that people can get to work while maintaining physical distancing. It would enable Scotland to reopen its garden centres, as the Welsh Government has agreed, and could be used to determine what other workplaces could reopen safely. That should vary from workplace to workplace and sector to sector depending on how feasible it is for workers to Stay Apart. Such a framework would also provide a clear message to businesses about how to re-think their workplaces and how they might interact with the public in future.

A new Stay Apart message would also help reduce levels of fear and encourage some of those people who have been too terrified to leave their homes to seek medical help when they need it.

Nick Kempe, Glasgow G41.

NICOLA Sturgeon proclaims she will not be “pressurised” into relaxing the lockdown rules in Scotland by whatever is decided in England.

But it is she who ramped up that pressure prematurely and quite unnecessarily (other than to pressurise Westminster and be seen to be different) with her pronouncements and publication of her lengthy blueprint for easing restrictions, which added little if anything to the five points previously announced by the UK government.

She tried to justify it by asserting the need for a “grown-up” conversation with the electorate, but clearly does not trust her electorate to be as grown-up as Westminster does, by refusing to endorse the limited relaxations proposed by the Prime Minister.

No-one wants more cases and certainly not more deaths, but at some point soon, if the great majority of us are not treated as mature adults capable of deciding ourselves to behave in socially-responsible ways, with our schools, industry, construction and commerce moving towards a “new normality” in order to educate our children and enable the economy to finance our future public services, then the cure will indeed become worse than the disease.

John Birkett, St Andrews.

I AGREE with Mark Smith (“Cherry’s right… Sturgeon is falling into the Churchill trap”, The Herald, May 11) when he warns of the danger for political leaders who become “out of tune with public opinion”. He also warns Boris Johnson against following the example of his hero Winston Churchill, who “preferred to listen to the advice of a small number of cronies rather than ministers who had all the facts.”

The unfortunate truth is that public opinion can be wrong, especially when that opinion has been shaped by a media that isn’t always accurate or informed. ITV News last night (May 10) broadcast a very brief apology for having shown the previous night a photo that purported to show people breaking the social distancing rules; in fact the photo had been taken before the rules were introduced.

Good leaders are conscientious enough to examine all the evidence, then brave enough to make what they believe to be the right decision. They don’t follow media demands or cries from those who shout loudest. In Nicola Sturgeon, I believe we have such a leader; I can’t say the same about Mr Johnson.

The Prime Minister is supposed to be primus inter pares, first among equals in a Cabinet of all the talents. However, he clearly prefers to listen to the views of his coterie rather than his ministers. He’s not alone in this, of course. I’m reading Alistair Darling’s account of the financial collapse of 2008; which is an example of a crisis that was handled pretty well. However, it’s clear from Mr Darling’s account that it could have been handled even better if Prime Minister Gordon Brown had used the knowledge and experience of the Cabinet more and the technical knowledge but woefully limited experience of his special advisers less.

Mr Johnson came into office with a tarnished reputation and it’s too late for him to now come over all-Churchillian, with his address to the nation and all. He inspires neither trust nor confidence, and I hope Ms Sturgeon will continue to do what she believes to be right for the people of Scotland rather than follow his meandering path.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.

THE message could not be clearer or more consistent; there will be no compromise on people’s lives and welfare. So if you live in Northern Ireland, follow the guidance of Arlene Foster, if you live in Wales follow the guidance of Mark Drakeford, if you live in Scotland, follow the guidance of Nicola Sturgeon, and if you live in England, God help you.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

NICOLA Sturgeon is understandably furious that a Sunday newspaper leaked Downing Street's new coronavirus road map ahead of Boris Johnson's official TV announcement. Everyone knows leaking UK Government policy is her job.

Martin Redfern, Edinburgh EH10.

IT was understandable and acceptable to place restrictions on our movements when the scientists were predicting an epidemic of such proportion that the NHS would be unable to cope. However, we have had enough critical care beds for many weeks now and it is time for the UK and Scottish governments to explain why they continue to direct our actions.

Unlike state democracies (like China) our liberal democracy requires our laws to be tested in court. However in today’s climate, when our judiciary is no longer functioning, it is vital that the state gives rational explanations for restricting our human rights which are enshrined in law.

For example, I would like to know:

Why we need to stay two metres apart when breath exhalation is only a matter of inches?

Why supermarkets (and Amazon) can stay open but their competitors cannot?

Why the children of key workers can receive education safely but other children cannot?

Why the elderly are thought incapable of judging risk and making their own decisions?

I do not believe there are satisfactory answers to these questions, which could be the reason why continental European Liberal democracies are opening up their economies at speed. We should follow suit.

Iris Clyde, Kirkwall.

I AM increasingly concerned about the breakdown in social distancing. Social distancing is not only important to keep people safe but also to give people the confidence to go out and spend money once lockdown is eased. The Scottish economy needs us to spend money but if people are too nervous to enter shops except for essential groceries, this is not going to happen.

People are growing impatient and pushing past people who are queuing rather than taking a few extra steps to follow the one-way system to come up behind them. They are blocking aisles to have a conversation and stretching across people to get the goods they want.

In the larger stores, there can be problems if too many staff are filling the shelves at the same time. There is also sometimes a problem with store assistants collecting goods for deliveries, as they often completely block aisles or ignore their own one-way system. In one supermarket visit, I met the same three shop assistants gossiping and blocking the aisle in three different places.

The supermarkets need to tighten up their procedures. They display rules such as one person per trolley, but they often don’t enforce them. It is much easier to shop safely with only one person per trolley as it takes up less room in the aisles and people are inclined to shop quicker. There will be specific circumstances when this will be impossible, such as one-parent families, but it should happen where possible. Perhaps some guidelines from the Scottish Government would help.

When shops re-open, councils need to check that shops are making the correct provisions for social distancing. They cannot just leave it to individual shop owners. Many small shops are already doing a great job. Unfortunately, there are shops whose layout makes social distancing very hard. Such shops need to be set a limit on the number of people in their shops at one time or given advice on how to change their layout.

Many people will be very nervous of going out once lockdown is eased and other people have to understand this and adjust their behaviour accordingly.

Hazel-Anne Steel, Glasgow G12.

Read more: Tories demand to see Sturgeon's evidence for 'slower approach' to lockdown