BUSINESSES that are not yet able to re-open will be forced to wait even longer as the Scottish Government focuses on suppressing Covid-19 enough to restart schools full time next month.

Nicola Sturgeon has warned traders such as gyms and music venues, that are still unable to restart their operation, that “it is possible that we may not be able to make any changes next week” except confirming schools can re-open from August 11 and a pause in shielding guidance from the end of the month.

Education Secretary John Swinney will today update MSPs on the Scottish Government’s plans to re-open schools – but Conservatives have called for ministers to formally commit to a full-time return to education today to give teachers and parents enough time to prepare for classrooms being unlocked.

Yesterday, the First Minister stressed that the re-opening of schools is top of her government’s priorities – meaning any further relaxation of rules are unlikely to be confirmed over the coming weeks.

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Ahead of Mr Swinney delivering a statement on his schools proposals, concerns from parents over the plans have been published including fears over childcare and worries over the wellbeing and attainment of children.

Ms Sturgeon indicated that the current phase of the Scottish Government’s four-step plan to ease the lockdown is “likely to last considerably longer” than the three-week periods earlier phases were subject to – meaning gyms and music venues may not even be told a timescale for when they can re-open at the Scottish Government's next lockdown review.

The First Minster has indicated that the “really significant” changes made over the last few weeks, including allowing pubs, restaurants and shops to re-open, means officials need to “carefully monitor the impact” and the number of new cases.

She added that the call centre outbreak in Lanarkshire illustrates “what can happen when people are mixing indoors and when perhaps guidance isn’t being rigorously followed”.

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Ms Sturgeon said: “Our main focus right now, and I think it is a priority that will have widespread agreement across the country, is on keeping the virus at a low enough level to enable schools to fully and safely re-open from August 11.

“It is possible that we may not be able to make any changes next week beyond confirming the return of schooling and a pause in shielding.”

The First Minister appealed to businesses waiting to re-open in phase four of her blueprint to be patient.

She said: “For those businesses who are still waiting for a date to restart, I want to thank you for your ongoing patience.

“I fully understand how difficult any further delay is for you. I hope you will understand why we need to act safely and cautiously and prioritise the re-opening of schools.”

She added: “Because we are so determined, if at all possible, to get schools back, there is an argument right now for pausing the changes we make before we make any more.

“That is not to say there will not be more changes in the weeks and months to come.”

The First Minister was asked whether she may consider keeping some schools closed after August 11 if certain parts of Scotland experience a spike in cases or a local outbreak.

She said: “We want to get schools in every part of the country open full time and that is the objective. Obviously, that depends on prevalence of the virus and community transmission of the virus being at low levels.

“I think we’ve got to be very clear that we are going to see outbreaks because the virus hasn’t gone away and just because there’s an outbreak, as we have seen in Lanarkshire, hopefully that doesn’t mean that leads to widespread community transmission.

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“It could and that is the risk, but if all of the systems, Test and Protect in particular, work effectively then the objective is to keep those outbreaks under control and to stop them running into wider community transmission.”

Although the Education Secretary will this afternoon update politicians on his plans to re-open schools, the Scottish Government has indicated that a final decision will be taken on July 30.

Jamie Greene, Scottish Conservative education spokesperson has demanded that during Mr Swinney’s statement, he commits to the return to full time education.

He said: “The SNP’s plans for schools have been in tatters for some weeks already. This SNP government must now finally listen to parents and commit today to reopen schools full time next term, as was promised.

“Schools and families need to know now if they are going back to school or not – July 30 is simply too late and logistically impossible to deliver for many.”

He added: “The time for ambiguity and dither quite simply is over, Mr Swinney must now direct all of Scotland’s councils to re-open schools full time on August 11th as he promised he would do.

“Anything less will be a betrayal of parents trust and one which will have a damning effect on education and our economy.”