Nicola Sturgeon is to seek cross-party support for her five-tier plan for Covid restrictions on Tuesday, as it emerged she was last night considering imposing a near full lockdown on Lanarkshire.
The First Minister has said there is likely to be “no immediate change” for those living in many parts of the country, when the new system comes into force next week.
Much of the Central Belt, where enhanced restrictions are currently in force, is likely to be placed into the second-top level while those in the rest of the country are likely to be placed into the middle tier.
Following the circuit-breaker leak, it’s shocking that communities are being subjected to this again.
If the Scottish Government is putting people in Lanarkshire into a Tier 4 lockdown next week, this is not how we should be finding out about it. https://t.co/e1xD3kUBvd
— Monica Lennon (@MonicaLennon7) October 26, 2020
However, it emerged on Monday night that officials were considering putting North and South Lanarkshire into the top level, following a surge in cases. It would mean non-essential shops, as well as businesses such as hairdressers and gyms, would close.
Ms Sturgeon confirmed that the new system could also include a minor concession for pubs and restaurants.
While in the Central Belt they are currently closed completely, under the second-highest tier, pubs and restaurants could be allowed to open to serve food, on the condition that they did not serve alcohol. While the option may not be commercially viable for “wet-led” pubs, which make most of their money from drinks, gastro pubs and restaurants could open again in the "level three" areas. Under the system, level zero is the lowest tier and level four the highest.
“We’re having discussions with the hospitality sector about the detail of this,” Ms Sturgeon said. “At the moment, under level three what we have suggested is that alcohol would not be permitted, but it may be possible to have premises serving food. It’s likely to be substantial meals, rather than snacks.”
In level two areas pubs and restaurants would be able to serve alcohol indoors with a main meal, or outside without a main meal.
Ms Sturgeon is likely to win support for her plan in a Holyrood vote, with the support of just one other party needed.
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, has backed the five-level approach but will push for the establishment of a new business advisory council to inform decisions, and for a Christmas loneliness strategy that would “consider the needs of families to meet safely” over the festive season.
The First Minister is also set to face calls to set out more detail of what criteria would be used to assess when a council area would move up or down a level.
She added a "sustained" fall of virus transmissions will be needed for an area to move down tiers.
According to a leaked letter , the Scottish Government is considering imposing the toughest level, which would mean restrictions comparable to the full lockdown imposed in March, on North and South Lanarkshire. The Central Belt, including Dundee, would be in level three with the rest of the country in level two.
The letter, from a government official to council umbrella group Cosla, states that a final decision had not yet been taken.
Meanwhile, John Swinney, the education secretary, admitted on Monday that students may not be allowed to return home over Christmas if coronavirus is not under control.
He said there is a "realistic possibility" they could be asked to stay in halls or other university accommodation over the festive period but stressed the Scottish Government "want to avoid that at all possible cost".