FAMILIES in Scotland could be allowed to form social bubbles - or "baubles" - to enable them to get together over the festive season.

Nicola Sturgeon said the idea is among others being discussed as part of efforts to temporarily loosen rules over Christmas.

The First Minister also raised hopes that Hogmanay could be covered by any changes.

She said: "I want people to have the ability to see loved ones at Christmas. I want to see loved ones at Christmas.

"And we're determined to try to make that possible." 

However Dr Susan Hopkins, a senior medical adviser to the UK Government's Covid-19 response, suggested tougher restrictions could be needed either side of Christmas if curbs are to be eased over the festive period.

She told a Downing Street briefing that "some of the Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) advice previously suggested that for every day we release we will need five days of tighter restrictions, so coming into Christmas we need to be very careful about the number of contacts we have to reduce transmission before Christmas and get our cases as low as possible".

More than two million people in west central Scotland, including in Glasgow and its surrounding areas, will enter near-lockdown from Friday at 6pm. 

Ms Sturgeon previously said the tough, three-week restrictions will help suppress the virus ahead of Christmas and the winter period.

UK ministers are reportedly considering loosening rules over a five-day period starting on Christmas Eve. 

Asked about this during her coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said four-nation discussions are ongoing. 

She said: "We are all desperate for some normality at Christmas, and I absolutely include myself in that.

"The Scottish Government right now is working very closely and well with the other UK nations to try to agree a way for that to happen. 

"We want to have the same position across the UK, given family patterns that exist."

She said it was important to reduce the prevalence of the virus ahead of Christmas.

Ms Sturgeon later added: "In general terms, yes I do think at Christmas it is important that, rather than leave people with restrictions that are so tight that many people will try to get round [them] in order to see loved ones at Christmas, it is better to do what we've tried to do all along and treat people like grown ups, and say, ok, here is perhaps a bit of leeway that as long as we all behave responsibly within, allows us to have some time with loved ones at Christmas.

"What the parameters are around that, what the numbers around that are - there are no decisions. 

"But we do want to allow people - and it will be within limits, undoubtedly - to see people that right now they're not able to see because of the very strict ban on household mixing."

Ms Sturgeon said she believed the vast majority of people would try to stick within the rules. 

However she stressed the risks need to be mitigated.

She said: "The lower we can get infection levels now, the fewer people going into Christmas will have this virus, so the lower your chance will be that one of your relatives coming to your house for Christmas Day, maybe, will have it and pass it on."

Asked if it was possible families could be allowed to mix freely by forming a social "bubble", she said: "Yes, that's possible, but that is not the same as saying that's been decided - the idea of a bubble, or bauble is maybe a more appropriate way of articulating it at Christmas.

"These are the kind of things that we're discussing and trying to come to a sensible view on."

Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to be able to give people "clear advice" once the details have been decided.

Elsewhere, she said Hogmanay is also very important in Scotland. 

She added: "We do have to take that into account in our planning and remember that we need to think across the whole festive period."