NICOLA Sturgeon has been told that her cautious blueprint to release Scotland’s lockdown “does not go far enough” amid accusations her strategy for easing restrictions is little more than a ”holding plan”.

The First Minister has angered businesses and opposition MSPs after only setting out a partial strategy until the end of April – with little detail announced over when daily life is expected to get back to normal as the vaccine rollout ramps up. Instead, Scots will be forced to wait until the middle of March for more clarity over what can be expected.

Speaking in Holyrood yesterday, Ms Sturgeon said she hopes to lift the “stay at home” lockdown from April 5.

Four people from two households are set to be allowed to meet up outdoors from March 15 – but the First Minister warned that domestic travel restrictions are “essential and are likely to remain so for some time yet" – ending hopes of family reunions across different local authority areas anytime soon.

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The suggestion of travel bans remaining in place has prompted business leaders to demand the rules are eased by April 26, by which point Ms Sturgeon said there will be a “phased but significant re-opening of the economy".

Schools are expected to fully re-open to all pupils by April 19 following the Easter holidays, while P4- P7 pupils could return to classrooms from March 15 along with more secondary pupils and university and college students on a part-time basis.

The First Minister said that by the last week in April, all parts of Scotland may be able to go into a revised level 3 of the tiered framework – just one week before Scots are due to go to the polls to vote in the Holyrood election.

The tiers are not be brought back to life in England after Boris Johnson set out an England-wide strategy on Monday.

Currently, large parts of Scotland including Dundee, Aberdeen and Perth and Kinross have case levels per 100,000 at level 2 rates – with nine weeks of lockdown remaining and significantly more people set to be vaccinated. No further details have been provided over what any changes to the tiered system could look like.

Marc Croathall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said Ms Sturgeon’s strategy “does not go far enough in giving our sector the clarity needed at this point to plan for re-opening".

READ MORE: Businesses demand domestic travel ban axed by end of April

He added that the First Minister re-introducing the tiered system despite the Prime Minister scrapping the approach in England “causes huge issues for businesses who we know are being contacted with enquiries to book from those living south of the border”.

Emma McClarkin, CEO of Scottish Beer & Pub Association, said the April 26 speculation "raises more questions than it answers".

Ms Sturgeon said that currently "we need to rely very heavily on restrictions to suppress the virus" but once more people have received their first dose of the vaccine, with a target date of mid-July for all adults, "we do hope that vaccination will become our main tool for suppression".

The First Minister hopes all parts of Scotland will be placed into tier 3 in the last week in April.

In tier 3, non-essential retail, hospitality, and gyms and hairdressers can reopen, though under current rules alcohol cannot be served in pubs – while travel restrictions are also in place.

Liz Cameron, the chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce has warned that easing domestic travel restrictions at the end of April will “be essential for the survival of tourism and hospitality businesses currently reliant on domestic visitors.”

Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader, Ruth Davidson, said Ms Sturgeon’s statement “fell short of public expectations”, adding that people ”didn’t tune in expecting to be told to tune in again in three weeks’ time”.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: Stay at home lockdown to be lifted by April 5

She added: “We didn’t get information about when measures like social distancing will end and when we will be able to do something as basic as give a loved one a hug.

“Everyone understands that we might not be able to give people absolute certainty - but they were at least expecting the First Minister to give them some kind of hope.

“Nothing has been published about what happens after April 26. This isn’t a routemap out of Covid, it is holding document.”

But the First Minister said that by mid-March, "when we have made further progress on vaccines and have greater understanding of the impact of the initial phase of school return – I hope we can set out then more detail of the further re-opening that will take place over April and May and into a summer when we hope to be living with much greater freedoms than we are today”.

She stressed that returning to the levels approach "will allow us to let some parts of the country move faster than others, if the data supports that."

Ms Sturgeon added: “It is important to stress, of course, that all of this depends on us continuing to suppress the virus now – and continuing to accept some trade-offs for a period, for example on international travel.

“However, if we do so, I am optimistic that we can make good progress in returning more normality to our lives and the economy.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon confirms new Covid figures

“I know this is still a cautious approach which though absolutely essential to control the virus and protect health, is extremely difficult for many businesses.”

Scottish Labour interim leader, Jackie Baillie, warned that the strategy lacks clarity on its "ultimate goal" and claimed the plan doesn't put enough emphasis in testing and tracing.

She said: “Most people make the reasonable assumption that once you’ve had your vaccination, particularly the second dose, that you are effectively good to go but the reality is that you can still get Covid, but hopefully in a much milder form and avoiding hospitalisation.

“That means that testing is critically important so that we can quickly identify and contain any future outbreaks. So will the First Minister issue a revised testing strategy that includes mass community testing where appropriate to do so?

“And finally, I want to be optimistic and I am equally patient, but can I ask the First Minister what the ultimate goal is? Because I think it is important the people understand what lies ahead.

“Is it suppression of the virus, using testing, tracing and vaccination but accepting that there is some risk as we do with flu each year? Or is it elimination with zero Covid and the prospect of continuing restrictions over a longer period - including further lockdown?”

In response, the First Minister insisted "our goal is to get back to normal life".

She added: "Our goal is to be able to hug loved ones and go about our business in the way that we all want to do. I think that we are much closer to that, largely because of the vaccination programme, than we have been at any point in a year.

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"We just need to make sure that we are doing this sensibly and with an appropriate degree of caution so that we do not send ourselves backwards before vaccination is doing all the work that we think it may ultimately do."

But business leaders are yet to be convinced.

Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said: “While the strategic framework update does represent a small step in the right direction, many Scottish businesses will be left feeling deflated.

"Considerable uncertainty still remains over how and when they can reopen their doors."

Ms Sturgeon also warned against “giving false assurance or picking arbitrary dates that have no grounding at this stage in any objective assessment” – after the Prime Minister set out his plan for unlocking restrictions in England, complete with timescales.

Speaking in Westminster yesterday, At Westminster, Mr Johnson said he was “very optimistic we’ll be able to get there” and that he would be able to fully remove all of England’s restrictions on June 21.

But he also inserted some words of caution, warning: “Nothing can be guaranteed.”

The Prime Minister struck a cautious tone when on Monday he urged people to be “prudent” by continuing to follow the rules after publishing his four-stage plan to gradually lift the third national lockdown by midsummer’s day.

With Tory lockdown-sceptic MPs pressuring Mr Johnson to move faster, the PM insisted he was “hopeful” his approach would see all legal controls removed on the final date earmarked in his four-step plan.

One snap poll suggested the public in England was with him with 46% thinking the scale and speed of his roadmap was about right while 26% said it was moving too quickly and 16% too slowly.