KATE Forbes has claimed there are signs Scotland's surge in cases is "stabilising" - while insisting “fundamental differences” remain between Nicola Sturgeon’s and Boris Johnson’s plans to lift all remaining restrictions.

Scotland's Finance Secretary warned that the state of the virus is at “a fragile and cautious phase” but suggested that over the weekend, there were signs the third wave of cases were starting to level off – adding that if they “continue to stabilise”, restrictions will be eased following the peak of the third wave under the current timetable.

The Scottish Conservatives said the SNP was "failing to get on top of the virus" and called for "a concrete guarantee that there won’t be a further delay in easing restrictions".

Yesterday, Scotland recorded 2,372 cases of the virus with a 12.6% test positivity rate and has been labelled Europe’s Covid hotspot.

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, Ms Forbes insisted “we all want to get back to some form of normality” but stressed her Government’s strategy has “two fundamental differences” to the plans announced by the Prime Minister for England yesterday.

READ MORE: Covid: Jason Leitch explains why Scotland tops WHO virus hotspot list

She said: “The first is on the timetable itself. We have said that all of Scotland will move to level 0 on July 19 – that includes the easing of physical distancing indoors and outdoors. Then we will move beyond level 0 from August 9.

“We have also said that we expect some baseline measures, for example face masks, some limitations on working from home so on, will continue for a longer period of time.”

Ms Forbes said the proposed move to beyond level 0 on August 9 will involve” lifting the limits and lifting as much of the legal restrictions as possible” - including attendance caps on weddings and mass events.

But she added “we do think there will be some baseline measures” that will remain in place “for a longer period of time”, including wearing of face coverings.

READ MORE: Covid: Douglas Ross calls for Nicola Sturgeon to get Scotland 'back to normal'

The SNP Finance Secretary said that “the link between transmission and hospitalisation was weakened”, allowing politicians to ease restrictions despite the soaring number of cases.

She added: “It's not broken completely, but it is weakening and that’s our hope that we can continue over the next three weeks in particular to vaccinate as many people as possible because that’s what gives the protection, that double vaccination, with a view to being able to move back to normality and get beyond level 0.

“We are reviewing the data on a daily basis, if not an hourly basis at times.”

Ms Forbes said: “We saw over the weekend that some of the figures were stabilising. The hope is that if our cases start to stabilise – there's inevitably going to be some bumps in the road – but if those cases continue to stabilise, then our hope would be to re-open on the descending path of this third wave rather than the ascending path.

“Politically and realistically, we have set out a timetable and that is the timetable that we want to deliver.

"The key right now is reviewing the hospitalisation figures to ensure that that link between transmission and hospitalisation and serious illness remains weak. The answer in delivering that is getting everybody vaccinated.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross warned that businesses "are desperate to know if Scotland is going to move to level 0 on July 19".

He said: “Kate Forbes this morning fell short of giving them a concrete guarantee that there won’t be a further delay in easing restrictions. Ministers must avoid muddying the waters ahead of any future announcements on current restrictions easing."

He added: "The Scottish Government are also saying that we will face longer term restrictions after August 9 like continued mandatory facemask wearing, but have so far failed to say exactly what they are. The public deserve to know what longer term measures are going to be in place.

“Right now the SNP are failing to get on top of the virus in Scotland. It is their failings that could put this move to level 0 at risk and could see businesses have to change their plans at the last minute.

“The Health Secretary has already hinted that restrictions might have to be delayed and now the Finance Secretary has effectively dodged giving a clear answer that restrictions will be eased in less than a fortnight.

“This constant ambiguity and last-minute decision making must end. It is imperative that SNP Ministers give businesses and people as much confidence as possible that Scotland will move to level 0 on July 19."