SCOTS will still be told to “err on the side of caution” at Christmas amid crunch four-nations talks to draw up plans to ease restrictions over the festive period.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon indicated that plans for the Christmas period, set to be agreed by the UK’s four nations this week, will see Scots being told to only relax rules “if they believe it right and necessary for their personal circumstances”.

The First Minister will take part in a COBR meeting with the UK Government and other devolved nations this afternoon to push forward drawing up a “common framework” for potentially easing ruled at Christmas.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Cobra meeting with representatives from all four UK nations to be held to discuss plans for Christmas

Ms Sturgeon stressed the strategy will be mostly on the same basis for each country but suggested some details could differ - including the definition of a single household, to “reflect the different circumstances in each nation”.

She added: “I know everyone has a desire to see loved ones over the festive period.

“However there is also a very real and a very legitimate anxiety that doing so could put those we love at risk, set back our progress as a country and result in unnecessary deaths and suffering.”

She said the arrangements for the festive period would “seek to balance those concerns”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “Any easing of restrictions will be temporary, it will be limited and it will be accompanied by advice on the precautions that we should all take to minimise risk.

“We will continue to ask people to err on the side of caution. Our overall advice will be for people to use any flexibility carefully and only if they believe it right and necessary for their personal circumstances.”

But the Scottish Greens have demanded that evidence is published to set out by how much progress in suppressing the virus could deteriorate if rules are relaxed at Christmas.

The party’s co-leader and health spokesperson, Alison Johnstone. said: “It’s not good enough for the First Minister to fall back on personal responsibility. We all understand that any loosening of restrictions over Christmas is a trade-off, but this isn’t just about extra days of restrictions – it’s about the spread of the virus.

“The Scottish Government must publish its working evidence, telling us how much of an increase in cases it thinks is an acceptable amount.”

The First Minister also reassured MSPs that there are “grounds for cautious optimism” with data showing that Scotland-wide, “the restrictions in place are having an impact” with the R number, the infection rate, now thought to be between 0.8 and 1.

Ms Sturgeon also said there was evidence suggesting that hospital and intensive care admissions may also be falling but warned the figures can “fluctuate on a day-to-day basis”.

The First Minister confirmed that East Lothian is the only local authority area that will moved down a tier – with the area being shifted from level 3 to level 2.

She said that while in East Lothian, “case numbers have continued to decline”, numbers showed that “we have seen an increase in case numbers in Midlothian” - an area that had initially been earmarked to also move from tier 3 to tier 2.

In Midlothian, case numbers have risen from 61 new cases per 100,000 to just over 97, with Ms Sturgeon warned that “a 50 per cent increase in one week is obviously a source of concern”.

She added that as a “precaution”, Midlothian will remain in level 3 “for a period”. But Dumfries and Galloway and Argyle and Bute, could in the coming weeks, be moved into level 1 with cases “stabilising at a low level”.

However, Ms Sturgeon warned that “given recent increases” in Clackmananshire and Perth and Kinross, officials are looking at those areas “particularly carefully” as to whether additional restrictions are needed – while increases in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are being put down to “specific outbreaks”, meaning extra rules are not needed.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Latest Covid-19 figures as death toll hits 3,544 

Turning to progress made on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, the First Minister said the advances showed that “the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter”.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman will announce plans to expand the testing of asymptomatic people on Wednesday, but Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was working with the 11 councils that are in Level 4 to “develop and deliver targeted geographical testing in a number of communities”.

Testing will also be expanded to designated visitors to care homes, care at home workers and some other NHS staff, she added.

Meanwhile testing for students ahead of them returning home for Christmas will begin next week, the First Minister said.

She added: “By taking extra care and getting tested before travel, students can help to make the Christmas period as safe as possible for themselves and their families.”