NICOLA Sturgeon has warned that it is “unlikely to be able to celebrate Christmas with no limits on the people in our houses” but insisted if people follow the rules in the weeks ahead, there is more chance of more normality being allowed.

The First Minister was responding to comments made by her national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, who suggested people should prepare for a “digital Christmas” and that large family gatherings would be “fiction” this year.

Ms Sturgeon said Professor Leitch had used the term “digital Christmas” as “shorthand” for a different looking celebration this year.

She said: “What he’s trying to do is be frank with people about the reality we live in and not prematurely rule things out and equally not try to give people false assurance – that's the really difficult balance we’re trying to strike right now.

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“I want us to be able to celebrate Christmas as normally as it is possible to do within the context of a global pandemic. My message to people is the more we all stick with these really difficult restrictions right now, the more chance there will be of us doing that.

“Some of the really tough additional things that government is deciding right now, restrictions on hospitality, for example, and any other restrictions we feel necessary to put in place, will also be in part about trying to deal decisively with an upsurge in the virus now so we give ourselves the best chance of greater normality at Christmas.”

The First Minister stressed that Christmas celebrations anywhere in the world are unlikely “to be absolutely normal without any restrictions”.

She added: “We are unlikely to be able to celebrate Christmas with no limits on the people in our houses and no limits to what we do. “The more we get this virus under control right now, the greater normality, the greater chance of having some ability to interact with our loved ones.”

Ms Sturgeon called on the public to adhere to the current rules and restrictions and any others that are rolled out in the coming weeks.

She said: “If Christmas Day was tomorrow, it would be a pretty harsh thing that I would have to say to people. “Let’s try and work as hard as we can just now, so that we do get greater normality, even if it is not 100 per cent normality.

“I think the worst things we could do right now would be to try to do what politicians sometimes have a tendency to do – tell people what they want to hear to make it easier in the here and now and worry about a change in course later on.”

The First Minister pointed to Scots of other faiths who have already had to mark religious holidays under Covid-19 restrictions.

She said: “There are people in our country, people in our Jewish community, people in our Muslim community, people in our Sikh and Hindu communities that have already gone through their equivalence of Christmas under these restrictions.

“I’m not saying that makes it okay if we can’t have a normal Christmas, it doesn’t. Remember, there are many of our fellow Scots who have already gone through these really upsetting important celebrations without the ability to make them in exactly a normal way.”