NICOLA Sturgeon has confirmed the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas will remain in place.

However the First Minister said the Scottish Government intends to "strengthen" the guidance around the festive period.

She stressed the safest way to spend Christmas is to stay within your own household and in your own home, and this remained her "strong recommendation". 

READ MORE: Everything we know so far about Scotland's rules over Christmas

The loosening of rules will allow up to eight Scots from three households to meet indoors between December 23 and 27.

But Ms Sturgeon said any interaction with another household should, if at all possible, take place outdoors.

She added: "If you do consider it essential to meet indoors with someone from another household, you should limit both the duration and the numbers as much as possible."

The First Minister said the five-day relaxation is a "maximum, not a target", and those seeing other households should not meet up for longer than one day and should not stay overnight unless it is unavoidable.

She said three households is a maximum, but two would be better, and Scots should stay "firmly" within groups of eight people but the "smaller the better".

Ms Sturgeon said: "We don't intend to take away flexibility. 

"That, in my view, wouldn't be fair at this stage and it wouldn't be realistic either, and indeed it may risk undermining rather than strengthening compliance with the overall Covid guidance.

"However we at the Scottish Government do intend to strengthen the guidance we give to people about whether and how they make use of the flexibility."

Dr Nicola Steedman, Scotland's interim deputy chief medical officer, said Christmas dinner was "risky". 

She said: "It's indoors, it's involving food, potentially with people sharing things, it's multiple people, it may not be ventilated well inside your home and it may take quite a long time if it's anything like my usual Christmas dinners. 

"So that's the science, but we also know there's emotion attached to that.

"All we can do is tell people the truth. All we can do is give people guidance, and people will make an informed decision."

It follows speculation the rules could be tightened amid a rise in coronavirus cases in parts of the UK and concerns over a new variant of the virus.

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has advised families to limit Christmas gatherings to two households.

Ms Sturgeon said the "pragmatic considerations" behind the loosening of restrictions had not gone away. 

READ MORE: Joint statement being prepared on Christmas measures after emergency 4 nations call

She said the Government decided to give people "clear boundaries" around Christmas.

The First Minister said she had taken part in four nations discussions yesterday and again this morning. 

She said it would be "wrong" to rule out further changes, but Christmas is now just over a week away.