SCOTLAND could have a twin-track Christmas, with students granted “exemptions” to coronavirus restrictions affecting the rest of the country, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed.

The First Minister said a different travel regime for students was “one of the things we’re working through”, although no firm decision had yet been taken.

It came after John Swinney said the Scottish Government wanted to avoid students being confined to their term-time accommodation “at all possible cost” at Christmas.

However the Education Secretary refused to rule it out, saying there was a “realistic possibility” that students may not be allowed home to see their families.

National clinical director Professor Jason Leith last week warned people they could face a "digital Christmas", with online conversations instead of traditional gatherings.

However at the daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon said things may be different for students.

Asked if the rules on travelling round the country and between different households that applied to students would apply to everyone else, she said: “That is one of the things we are having to work through in terms of students.

“If we allow students to go home, then clearly our travel advice has to take account of that.

“So it may be  - and please don’t take this as categoric, because we haven’t reached decisions - that there are exemptions to that made for students, if there is travel advice in place. That is one of the things we’re working through.”

The First Minister also announced there had been 1,122 new cases of coronavirus identified overnight, taking the total to 57,874, with one more death recorded in the past 24 hours.

MSPs are due to vote tomorrow on the Government’s strategic framework for handling Covid over the winter, with a five-tier system applying across Scotland’s 32 local authorities. 

If the draft framework is approved by Holyrood, ministers will then decide later in the week on which lockdown levels will apply to different parts of Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon said there would be “no immediate change” for many areas when the new system takes effect from November 2.

Most of Scotland is considered to be in Tier 2 of the new system, with the central belt subject to tougher restrictions in the equivalent of Tier 3.

Ms Sturgeon said there would need to be “sustained” reductions in the virus before an area was downgraded, and it was possible parts of NHS Tayside would be raised to Tier 3.

She said: “For many places there may be no immediate change.

“The best way of moving to a lower level of restrictions and of living more freely is to have a lower level of transmission of the virus.

“The best way we have of driving transmission lower and keeping it low is for all of us to stick to the rules that are in place at any given time.

“And that, of course, is a collective responsibility for all of us.”

The First Minister also said she had “no plans” to reduce the two-week self-isolation period, after reports the UK Government was considering a cut to 7 or 10 days.

However she said the issue was always under review in case of new evidence.

She said: “We have no plans at the moment to reduce the period of self-isolation. 

We keep all of this under review - we don’t want people to live under the most severe restrictions for longer than is absolutely necessary.”

National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said he was not aware of any scientific advice in any part of the UK that supported a cut below the current 14-day period, or 10 days from the date a person’s symptoms end.

He said: “We have no plans with the present clinical advice to change that in any way.

“As far as I know, there is no clinical advice in the other three UK countries.”

He added: “There’s no present plan, but we keep it under constant review globally and locally and if we think the incubation period has changed or we think the risk has changed in some way, then we will of course advise appropriately

“But for now, I’m afraid it’s still a 14 day self-isolation.”

Also speaking at the briefing, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said Scotland was “on track” to have capacity for 65,000 coronavirus tests per day by winter.

She said a “significant proportion” of the testing capacity increase will come from three new regional laboratory hubs that she expects to open in November and December.

More than a third of the potential capacity will be provided by the new laboratories, she said.