Universities Scotland Director Alastair Sim has said students were requested to stay locked down this weekend, not banned from going to pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues. 

In a statement published today, Mr Sim reiterated that students "are not to blame" and explained this reasoning behind what was asked of students this weekend. 

He said: “This weekend, we asked all students not to go out to pubs, restaurants and cafes.

"It was a request, not a ban. It was never a ban."

However, a statement from Universities Scotland released on Thursday stressed that universities would not tolerate breaches of the new regulations, which were in place to prevent further transmission.

That included a ban on parties and socialising outside their households.

In today's statement, Mr Sim said: "We know it was a big ask; one that asked more from students, for the course of one weekend, than is currently being asked of the rest of the general public.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Scottish students banned from going to pubs this weekend

"It was an appeal to a diverse student body that we know is caring, responsible and socially-minded."

Mr Sim outlined that the timing of this weekend was important for breaking the chain of Covid-19 transmission after house parties and mixing across household groups from "a minority of students" gave rise to rapid transmission.  

He added: "The number of positive tests for coronavirus has been rising steeply in the general population and we have seen several outbreaks linked to student accommodation over recent days.

"By mid-week, hundreds of students were being supported to isolate in their student accommodation in an attempt to keep people safe and contain further transmission of the virus.

"Universities have a responsibility to their students and the wider community they are part of. Universities take both responsibilities very seriously."

Mr Sim also took the opportunity to praise the majority of students for their altruism demonstrated throughout the pandemic.

He said: "They are mindful of the impact the virus can have on the vulnerable.

READ MORE: University of Edinburgh students forced to break social distancing rules during 'fire drill'

"This continues the spirit of altruism that students demonstrated at the very beginning of the pandemic in the spring, when final-year health students accelerated their graduation to serve on the front-line of the NHS and others made PPE and volunteered at food banks."

Mr Sim acknowledged the benefits of in-person options and meeting personal tutors in person, however he added that virtual models would mean that no student is excluded from a "full package of support."

He concluded: "We strongly believe that Scotland is taking the right approach, in making access to education a priority, second only to public health, throughout this pandemic.”