NICOLA Sturgeon could “toughen up” the UK Government’s three-tier Covid-19 system or even add another higher level amid fears by scientific experts that the measures will not go far enough to suppress the spread of the virus.

Boris Johnson has set out a three-tier system for different parts of England, with the Scottish Government set to draw up similar plans which will be put to Holyrood when it returns from recess in two weeks.

But minutes published from a meeting of scientific experts, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which met last month, reveal that politicians were warned that the three-tier system would likely “be insufficient” to suppress the virus, according to the First Minsiter.

While the Scottish Government’s ambition is to align closely with the UK Government’s three-tier plans, Ms Sturgeon suggested that measures north of the border could be more severe.

She said: “We are considering all of this just now. Obviously, restrictions that are already in place in Scotland, particularly in the Central Belt for this next two-week period are already tighter than the minimum of the tier three that was announced for England yesterday.

“Professional advisers had made clear to governments that the minimum of the tier three in the England tiered system would in all likelihood be insufficient to do what is required to bring the R number down. That is something we are very mindful of.”

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She added: “We want to, if possible, have an aligned strategic framework between the four nations because I think that makes sense and gives people an easier understanding. But we have to make sure the content of that is right for the circumstances we are facing here.

“Without announcing any decisions because we haven’t reached them yet, there will be a couple of options if we thought the tier three announced in England wasn’t sufficient – you could toughen up what the minimum of that tier three was or you could have another tier above that.

“These are the options we will consider over the next few days before bringing a proposal to parliament after the October break.”

Ms Sturgeon warned that Scotland and most of Europe is at “a very perilous point” and insisted she has chosen “deliberately to intervene early” in a bid to “hopefully avoid tougher restrictions later”.

The Sage scientists had called for a “circuit breaker” lockdown to be introduced weeks ago, but Ms Sturgeon last week ruled this out and instead has introduced temporary hospitality restrictions for 16 days.

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Ms Sturgeon said: “All governments just now, you heard me set this out last week, have to strike really difficult balances between vital public health restrictions to control the virus and the wider wellbeing of individuals and the economy.

“While advisers advise, governments have to decide. And that means we will sometimes reach a different balance - because government has to take account of all of the different factors.

“But as you will see from the Sage advice published last night, the actions the Scottish Government is taking just now are firmly rooted in scientific advice. We are trying to strike a careful balance, but also to do what is needed to protect the NHS and save lives.”