NICOLA Sturgeon has pleaded with the Scottish public not to get carried away when beer gardens re-open today – after worrying scenes south of the border showed revellers ignoring social distancing rules that could be "putting lives at risk".

Beer gardens across Scotland are able to finally open to the public today – but customers hoping for a pint will have to remain two metres away from people in other households.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Beer gardens re-openCamley's Cartoon: Beer gardens re-open

Stark warnings have been issued after footage on social media showed crowds in parts of London and other English towns failing to socially distance – increasing the risk of Covid-19 spreading as people come in close contact with other households.

The First Minister has warned that “no beer garden or café should feel the same” when they re-open today, and has urged people to remember that they “cannot get complacent” in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.

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Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has also issued a plea to the public, warning that the scenes in England must act as a “cautionary tale” and stressed that if people fail to socially distance when beer gardens re-open, the action could be “putting lives at risk and prolonging the crisis."

Ahead of pubs re-opening south of the border, England’s chief medical officer, Chris Witty, warned that pubs are “a great thing from the virus’ point of view”.

He added: “We do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs.”

But the warning was not listened to by all – with pictures of hundreds of people gathering on the street outside bars and venues in the Soho and Borough Market areas of London on Saturday night.

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Other English cities also encountered people ignoring social distancing rules, with Sergeant Richard Cooke from West Midlands Police warning that Saturday night showed that the “second wave won't be long in the making”.

Traders have acknowledged the “important milestone” in businesses starting to return – but are expecting the majority of pubs to hold off from re-opening until they can fully do so on July 15.

Conservatives have criticised the Scottish Government for not allowing the economy to re-open quickly enough, now it is safe to do so.

Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said: “It’s not a question about whether it’s fast enough, it’s a question about whether it’s safe enough.

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“I think Scottish business has prepared. I think the evidence from elsewhere is that business, if it has prepared, can now open safely and there are thousands of people whose jobs depend on the economy restarting.”

He added: “There is a real economic challenge coming. By the end of this year we could have hundreds of thousands of people out of work and it’s absolutely critical that as safely as we can, we get the economy back up – and we put urgency behind it.

“The same commitment we’ve shown in health, we now need to show to making sure Scotland recovers economically.”

When pubs and restaurants in Scotland open indoors areas from July 15, businesses will be able to reduce social distancing rules from two metres down to one metre – dependent on mitigation measures to help reduce the spread of the virus.

These safety measures are yet to be formalised but could include Perspex screens, the use of face masks and enhanced hygiene regimes. But as beer gardens re-open today, punters from different households will need to remain two metres apart.

The First Minister visited the Cold Town House terrace in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket ahead of today’s re-opening to see changes put in place to ensure the safety of staff and customers.

The business is restricting party sizes to six people from a maximum of two different households, with a reservation available for a maximum of one hour and 45 minutes.

HeraldScotland: Nicola Sturgeon visited Cold Town House in Edinburgh before beer gardens re-openNicola Sturgeon visited Cold Town House in Edinburgh before beer gardens re-open

Customers will be asked to submit contact details and asked if their temperature can be taken on arrival.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The sacrifices made by the public have suppressed this virus, protected our health service and ultimately saved lives – and I know those sacrifices have not always been easy.

"I hope that as we take these first gradual steps out of lockdown, people will begin to feel more of the sense of normality that we have worked so hard for - although it is important to remember that the virus has not gone away so we cannot get complacent.

"No beer garden or cafe should feel the same as it did before.

"The vast majority of the hospitality industry will be following the rules and putting in place new procedures to help control the virus."

She added: "People should look for those safety measures and be aware of the need to follow the Facts at all times when out in the community.

"If you don't see those safety measures, or you don't feel you can follow appropriate hygiene rules, than don't take the risk.

"If we continue to stick to the rules we will be able to drive the virus down further and live less restricted lives in the weeks and months ahead.

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"Until then support local businesses if you can, socialise safely and make sure that while you enjoy yourself you also protect others."

Following the worrying scenes in London from Saturday night, Labour leader Richard Leonard has called for the progress made so far not to be reversed as beer gardens open.

He said: “Many people are feeling frustrated by the lockdown and understandably want their lives to return to normal and to be able to socialise with their friends and family.

“But we must be in no doubt that this pandemic is not over yet. There is still a significant risk of infection, and reports of crowded pubs in England must be a cautionary tale.

“It is imperative that social distancing is maintained. If we fail to do this, we risk undermining the positive effects of the lockdown in suppressing infection, putting lives at risk and prolonging the crisis."

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie added: “Hospitality businesses have worked hard to adapt their buildings and gardens so they can keep people safe.

“It's very important to respect the spaces. That way we can enjoy getting the social economy started again."

Business leaders have urged customers to take the adaptations that traders have made seriously.

Emma McClarkin, CEO of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA), said: "Today marks an important milestone for the trade in Scotland.

"Being able to open their doors again and welcome customers back is something every pub has looked forward to since March.”

She added: "For those premises with outdoor space and are able to re-open, today is definitely a positive one. The majority however will be waiting until July 15 for the reopening of indoor areas and that date cannot come soon enough.

"Things will be a little different with added mitigation measures to help protect customers and ensure they feel safe, but they will still be the same places we all know and love.

"We all have a shared interest in continuing to suppress the virus and the pub sector is definitely ready to play our part in welcoming our customers back responsibly."

Meanwhile, dozens of gardens and estates run by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) will re-open today for the first time since lockdown.

Culzean Country Park in Ayrshire and Threave Garden in Dumfries and Galloway will open with timed entry in a bid to maintain safe physical distancing.

HeraldScotland: Culzean Country Park has re-opened todayCulzean Country Park has re-opened today

More than 1,000 slots have already been pre-booked in the first few days of Culzean tickets being made available online.

It comes after the charity said some indoor facilities may not reopen until the 2022/23 season including Bannockburn Visitor Centre, Hill of Tarvit, House of the Binns, Kippen Smiddy, Leith Hall, Holmwood and Souter Johnnie's Cottage.

The charity has also warned residents within the local lockdown in parts of Dumfries and Galloway "not to travel to its properties if it entails a journey beyond the five-mile limit".

Some sites will have takeaway food and drink on offer but visitors are reminded to take litter home with them and toilet facilities will also be in place - though not at all properties.

Phil Long, the charity's new chief executive, said: "It's wonderful news that we're able to start welcoming visitors back to so many of our properties around the country.

"Our team have been doing a phenomenal job in caring for these places over lockdown and I've been seeing for myself the incredible work that has been done to get ready for visitors once again.

"Sadly, we can't yet bring people inside the castles, houses and visitor centres just yet, but we're hoping that we'll be able to do so in the coming months and will make further announcements as soon as we are able."