A teaching union leader has urged the Scottish Government to shut schools early ahead of the festive break to help contain the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid.

Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of EIS, warned that more schools would have to close or move to remote learning if they cannot be staffed.

It comes as Deputy First Minister, John Swinney warned today that cases of the variant are "galloping through Scotland".

The Scottish Government estimates that Omicron cases will double every two to three days and are likely to add up to more than half of all cases by next week.

More than 4,000 new coronavirus cases have been recorded in the past 24 hours in Scotland.

According to the latest Scottish Government figures, 4,002 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed since Friday.

Among those positive tests, 38 new cases of the Omicron variant have been identified, taking the total in Scotland to 159.

Healthcare staff in England are reported to have been told to start preparing for the mass vaccination of primary school childern in anticipation of approval by regulators.

However Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the JCVI is still looking at the evidence as to what level of protection it would offer those children.

Mr Flanagan told The Sunday Times: "The Scottish Government should consider an early Christmas closure if a firebreak is needed to fend off a new wave of infection.

"There is no threat to next May's exams as yet but the situation is being monitored and discussed."

Many schools break up for Christmas and New Year next week.

The Scottish Government is due to provide an update on any possible additional restrictions this week but speaking today on BBC's The Sunday Show, Mr Swinney said schools would be the "last thing to close".

He said: "We have made clear that we want to maintain education and that will be the last thing that we close.

"We want to maintain education because young people have suffered so much interuption to their education and we want to avoid that."

Mr Swinney said it was "completely wrong" to assume that the situation is less serious because symptoms appear to be milder in the cases already identified.

He said the scale of infections would likely result in some people requiring hospitalisation, putting pressure on already fragile services.