THE SCOTTISH Government has been accused of "deeply irresponsible" behaviour by not investigating the true impact of relaxing coronavirus rules over Christmas without knowing the consequences as oficial guidance was published.

The Scottish Government, along with all UK administrations, has announced that people will be able to form an extended bubble with two other households from December 23 until December 27.

But Nicola Sturgeon has repeteadly warned Scots to only form an extended bubble if absolutely necessary amid a message to "err on the side of caution".

People in Scotland have been advised to keep their extended bubbles "to a maximum of eight people".

Children under the age of 12 do not count towards the total number of people counted in the bubble.

But Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of sending Scots a “confusing message” by lifting restrictions on household mixing but simultaneously appealing for people to try to avoid gathering over Christmas if possible.

The First Minister has warned Scots to "think carefully" about meeting up with loved ones at Christmas

She added: “This virus spreads when people come together so we are asking everyone to think carefully before using these flexibilities.”

Tailored guidance for those north of the border has now been published by the Scottish Government - including that one current extended household can be included in the three-household bubble.

The guidance recommends that “you should limit your social contact with others as far as you can before and after forming a bubble to minimise transmission risks and to protect your loved ones”.

Scots are also being advised to “remain two metres away from people outside of your household as much as possible” while forming an extended bubble. But children aged 12 and under do not need to maintain physical distance from others.

The advice warns that those who live in a shared flat or house, other than students, “are considered a household” and the Scottish Government’s “strong advice is that households should not split up and enter separate bubbles over the festive period”.

It adds: “If you do join different bubbles you should isolate from your flatmates both before and after joining your bubble for around a week.”

Scots are being warned that if their potential extended bubble “consists of elderly people or people who are clinically vulnerable”, people “may wish to avoid mixing to reduce the risk of passing on the virus”.

People who wish to visit loved ones in care homes, hospitals and hospices over the festive period are being advised to “stay within your own household and not form a bubble with any other household”.

But Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie challenged Ms Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions about whether the Scottish Government is prepared to tackle a third wave of the virus caused by increased gatherings over the festive period.

While acknowledging the “difficult decisions” that had to be made, Mr Harvie said: “This morning at Parliament’s Covid-19 committee, the national clinical director confirmed that no risk assessment has been made of the impact this relaxation will have.

“This seems deeply irresponsible.

“So can the First Minister confirm that this is the case? If so, how will the Government ensure that our NHS is prepared for the third wave that the new rules risk creating?”

Ms Sturgeon replied to say she had “agonised over” the decision but argued the Scottish Government is right to ease the restrictions on gatherings “instead of just allowing that to happen naturally in a haphazard way”.

She added: “We’ve not modelled at this particular arrangement, we are looking at if and how it is possible to do that.

“There are difficulties in trying to model an arrangement, particularly where you’re trying to persuade people only to use flexibilities when necessary.”

She accepted it is a “complex” message but said: “I’m being very open with people that this does carry risks, which is why, where people can get through Christmas without mixing with others, that is my advice to them.”

Travel restrictions will be lifted across the UK to allow people to move about to form their extended Christmas bubble.

But the guidance sets out that “once you arrive you must follow the rules about travel that apply in that local authority area”.

But those who fail to return home by December 27 could face enforcement action for breaching travel restrictions. The guidance warns that “the only exemption” to Scots not returning home by the end of the festive relaxation period is “where you are delayed as a result of travel disruption or ill-health", which could include having to self-isolate.

If people are travelling by public transport to form their Christmas bubble, they are being advised by the Scottish Government to “book ahead where possible” and “don’t leave it until the last minute”.

Those travelling to the Scottish islands are not being given an extra time outside of the five-day period to make the journey, but the First Minister indicated that overnight ferry journeys will be “catered for” and the guidance could be updated.

Lib Dems MSP for Orkney, Liam McArthur, pointed to allowances being made in Northern Ireland to allow people to travel during the Christmas period.

He said the lack of special treatment for island communities “risks creating serious bottlenecks on ferries and flights over the Christmas period” and called on the First Minister to “urgently review the proposed rules to ensure that the needs of our island communities are properly taken into account”.

Ms Sturgeon said there would be a “slight update” made to the guidance in order to “take account of and refer to the timing of overnight ferries from Shetland over that period and to make sure that that factor is catered for”.

She added: “We will also look as reasonably as we can at any other exceptional circumstances. There is, of course, a general exemption for exceptional circumstances in which people are travelling, but we will try to look as favourably as we can at all particular circumstances.

“However, generally, I do not want people to lose sight of the overall default advice. People should think very carefully about travelling over Christmas and about coming together with other households.

“In our islands, the prevalence of Covid is very low and we hope to see even more normality introduced there over the next period, so people should perhaps be particularly careful about taking the virus to the islands over the festive period. I recognise the difficulties and we will try to be as flexible as we can be, but let us not lose sight of that overall public health advice.”

Scots who have formed an extended household cannot visit shops together, amid a warning that “retail premises could be busier than normal in the days leading up to Christmas”.

Extended bubbles are allowed to gather in a place of worship during the festive period, so long as places of worship limit capacity to rules in the Scottish Government’s tiered system.

Bubbles are also banned from visiting pubs and restaurants and leisure or hospitality venues. Scottish Government guidance adds that “during the Christmas period those who are part of a bubble should not stay in tourist accommodation”.