NICOLA Sturgeon has been told to reassure university towns that overseas students will be tested for Covid-19 ahead of the “biggest movement of people since the lockdown” to arrive in Scotland.

The First Minister confirmed that updated guidance, which will include rules on testing, will be published by the Scottish Government next week – but is still to be finalised.

Yesterday, officials announced that 11 walk-in test centres will be set up across Scotland, including St Andrews, ahead of an influx in students returning to the town.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, pressed for information on any student testing policy at First Minister’s Questions – pointing to his “frustration” over the lack of details.

He said: “Intelligent young people from all over the world come to Scotland because of our brilliant universities and we have a duty to keep them safe when they are here. Yesterday, we heard about 11 new virus test centres, including one in St Andrews which will be welcomed by locals, visitors and students.

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“What we didn’t hear was a new policy on testing international students.”

He added: “Students are arriving for the new term right now. It will be the biggest movement of people since the lockdown and I think we’ve all got a duty to keep them safe.

“Will all students be asked to get a test when they arrive in the country and on day five? When will the testing capacity be ready and will it be a condition of their studies?”

The First Minister stressed that “testing has an important part to play in how we protect the student community”, as well as communities in which those studying live.

She added that the further walk-in centres could be prioritised in “locations that support student populations”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “While we are finalising updated guidance, there are already arrangements in place that universities and colleges are working to deliver.

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“Blended learning, which will be a deliberate effort to reduce numbers on campus – there are arrangements about enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures, two metres physical distancing. Staff and students who are arriving here from certain high-risk countries will have an obligation to quarantine for 14 days, which is a really important foundation – whatever the final position is on testing.

“There is already a considerable amount of work ongoing to ensure that students are safe and wider communities are safe – the guidance that we will publish next week is an update on that and will cover whether there are additional steps that we intend to take.”

Scottish Greens MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Mark Ruskell, also pressed the First Minister over whether university towns will be kept safe – amid fears that staff are not being protecting effectively at some institutions.

He said: “Last week I met with members of the St Andrews University and College Union who are deeply concerned about a decision by the university to make in-person teaching the default.

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“Over 9,000 students from around the world are returning to the town from this week. The university said that only the largest lectures will move online – that's clearly not blended learning. Staff at Edinburgh University have reported similar concerns, yet Glasgow and UHI have said in-person teaching will not resume this calendar year.”

He added: “Will the revision of the Scottish Government guidance ensure that all universities adopt the safety approach possible. Can the First Minister confirm if universities pushing staff to deliver in-person teaching in consistent with the government’s routemap , which says that people should continue to work from home as default?”

Ms Sturgeon said that no staff “in any sector of the economy should be put under pressure to do things that we are not advising”.

She added: “Obviously, we are very clear on the need for a form of blended learning. Different institutions will take different decisions based on their circumstances and I think that is right and proper.

“They must, all of them, have regard and very serious regard, to how they keep their student communities safe, the staff that work in their institutions but also how they make sure that their arrangements don’t pose a risk to the wider communities that they’re located in as well.”