JOHN Swinney has addressed the nation in place of Nicola Sturgeon in today’s  coronavirus briefing.

Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, was joined by the Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop and national clinical director Jason Leitch.

These are the key takeaways from that briefing:

Economic support:

Hyslop said that the economic path of recovery from the impact of Covid differs by sector. She pointed to the latest monthly GDP data, which she said showed the Scottish economy grew for the fourth month running.

However, Hyslop added that the pace of growth had slowed in August, as it did in the rest of the UK as a whole.

In terms of economic support for businesses made to close by the Government’s Covid restrictions, Hyslop said there would be grants of £2000 or £3000, depending on each business’s rateable value.

These grants are payable in arrears, and every four weeks for the duration of the restrictions.

There will also be hardship grants for businesses which have not been made to close, but that have had to limit hours or operations.

These will be worth either £1400 or £2100.

If restrictions apply for more than 4 weeks, eligible businesses need not reapply to their local authority to receive the grants again.

Hyslop also called on UK Government to ensure the lowest-paid furloughed workers are properly supported through winter.

Hyslop’s calls come amid worries that the job support scheme will cut people’s income to below the living wage. She said that the “reality” was a lot of people would be put in this situation and face increased hardship.

Schools and childcare: 

Swinney, who is also the Education Secretary, outlined the new rules to be imposed on schools and childcare. He said schools were being kept open to avoid long-term harm to children and the risk of increasing inequality.

These rules include compulsory face-coverings for parents dropping their kids off at school, and for secondary school pupils in years 4 to 6 when in the classroom.

This guidance on mask wearing in the classroom only applies in areas on level 3 or 4 of Covid restriction.

Furthermore, adults should all wear face-coverings in schools when a two-metre distance cannot be maintained, with some exemptions for primary 1 and 2.


Swinney stressed that celebrating Halloween by guising risks increasing the spread of the virus.

He said: "We should all be avoiding activities which make the spread of the virus more likely.

"I'm afraid that guising falls into that category. Going door-to-door passing sweets, touching items others have touched, all of that gives the opportunity for Covid to spread.

"So this Halloween, our advice is that you should stay at home.

“Don’t take risks for the sake of one night, it’s really not worth it.”

The Deputy First Minister said this shouldn’t stop people aiming to have fun or make it a special night, and urged parents looking for ways to entertain their children to visit for ideas.

Central Belt Bias:

Swinney, Hyslop and Leitch were asked about an apparent “central belt bias” in placing local authorities in Covid levels.

One journalist pointed out that Aberdeen had appeared to meet level 1 criteria, but had been placed in level 2.

North and South Lanarkshire however, seem to meet level 4 requirements but have been put in level 3.

Swinney said that the Government had decided to “err on the side of caution”.

He said the “acute” threat Covid posed was obvious and that many societies facing full lockdowns, in nations such as France, show the severity of threat.

He added that the allocation of local authorities to different Covid levels will be reviewed every week.

Travel restrictions and quarantine:

From 4am on Sunday November 1, people arriving in Scotland from Cyprus and Lithuania will now be required to quarantine for 14 days.

But there was also news about travel within Scotland and the UK.

Swinney urged hotels in parts of Scotland with the lowest coronavirus restriction levels to not take bookings from people living in high-risk areas.

He explained accommodation providers turning down these requests would be "consistent" with the advice for people in Level 3 - or Level 4 if it is enacted - to not leave their local authority area.

Asked about the impact of the restrictions on hotels, Swinney said: "I would have to say to hoteliers to discourage them from accepting bookings from areas that are Level 3 or likely to be Level 3.

"I think I have to give that advice, because that would be the consistent point, based on the travel advice that we're giving to level three residents, which is to say don't leave your local authority area."