Crossing the Scottish border will be illegal from the end of this week under sweeping new Covid restrictions which critics have described as ‘deeply flawed’.
As of 6pm on Friday, entering or leaving Scotland without a reasonable excuse is banned and anyone caught doing so could be slapped with a £60 fine.
People living within Level Three or Level Four lockdown areas – which includes vast swathes of central Scotland – are also not permitted to leave their area.
But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been hit with claims that the rules cannot be legally put in place by Scottish parliament – sparking fears that lockdown-defying travellers could dispute their fines.
In other developments yesterday:
- There was a mass rush to the shops in areas entering Level 4 lockdown as families tried to do their Christmas shopping before the new restrictions begin;
- Nicola Sturgeon confirmed she is considering whether tougher curbs will be necessary in January as a result of relaxing the lockdown rules at Christmas;
- Ministers said they hope to vaccinate one million Scots against coronavirus by the end of January in the biggest immunisation programme ever carried out;
- A further 1,089 Covid cases were confirmed in Scotland, but the number in hospital fell by 29, to 1,212, and those in intensive care dropped by three, to 85;
- Another 50 deaths were confirmed of those who had tested positive for Covid in the previous 28 days;
- The R number may have fallen ‘very slightly below one’.
Crossing the Scottish border will be illegal from the end of this week under sweeping new Covid restrictions which critics have described as ‘deeply flawed’. Pictured: Shoppers in Glasgow on Thursday
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attends First Minister’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament on November 19
People living within Level Three or Level Four lockdown areas – which includes vast swathes of central Scotland – are also not permitted to leave their area
Futhermore, a list of bizarre exceptions have been put in place which would allow the travel rules to be breached.
Scots can leave the country – or their locked down area – to feed an animal, donate blood or take a driving test.
Exemptions to the travel ban also apply for more common essential travel reasons, including for health reasons, work or for school.
It also emerged that people who are banned from travelling to an airport because of the rules are unlikely to receive compensation if their flight goes ahead.
Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins, who is also a professor of law at Glasgow University, explained: ‘It’s not at all clear if the draft regulations published today are within the remit of the Scottish parliament.
‘There are, at least, grave doubts about the legal competence to act in the way Scottish ministers propose.’
Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles warned that ‘any self-respecting lawyer would advise a client not to pay a fine’ while Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard slammed the ban as ‘deeply flawed’.
The travel regulations, published yesterday, only a day before they came into force, set out restrictions between Scotland an other parts of the common travel area: England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
Under the heading ‘restrictions on leaving Scotland’, the regulations state that ‘a person who lives in Scotland must not leave Scotland for the purpose of entering or remaining in a place within the common travel area’.
Northern Ireland will extend hospitality shutdown
Ministers in Northern Ireland have agreed to extend pandemic restrictions on hospitality for two weeks from November 27.
Close-contact services and cafes can open this Friday as planned but will have to close again next Friday, while other hospitality sectors like pubs and licensed restaurants will remain closed throughout.
From November 27, non-essential retail and services like hairdressers, beauticians and driving lessons will also have to shut to protect an NHS battling a surge in coronavirus cases.
Takeaway hospitality services will be allowed but leisure and entertainment services will be closed.
The measures were taken as top doctors warned hospitals could otherwise be overwhelmed.
Aodhan Connolly, of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said: ‘This couldn’t come at a worse time for the retail industry.
‘November and December are peak trading months and millions of pounds per week will be lost in sales during what should be our busiest period.’
The Stormont Executive also decided sporting events will only be allowed for elite athletes, with no spectators.
Health Minister Robin Swann warned that more interventions were necessary before the end of this month to curb the spread of coronavirus.
His ultimatum to Stormont colleagues stated that if they did not take action, a full lockdown in mid-December would not be enough to prevent hospital services from being overwhelmed.
Close-contact services, coffee shops and cafes had been set to reopen this Friday.
Restrictions on pubs, restaurants and hotels were to expire next Thursday.
A Stormont Executive meeting concluded on Thursday evening.
Mr Swann also asked fellow ministers to consider local travel restrictions which were legally enforceable.
So far they have only advised against ‘unnecessary travel’.
The restrictions on entering Scotland say: ‘A person who lives in a place within the common travel area mentioned in paragraph 4 must not enter or remain in Scotland’. However, the regulations do set out that travel can take place ‘in order to reach a place outwith Scotland’.
Mr Tomkins said: ‘There are serious legal questions to be asked about the draft regulations published by the Scottish Government, which include rules about who may ‘enter or remain in’ Scotland. These rules appear to affect British and Irish citizens across the UK and Ireland.
‘Is this within Holyrood’s competence? For one thing, freedom of movement would appear to be expressly reserved to the UK Parliament under the Scotland Act. For another, it’s not clear that the Scottish parliament can make rules contrary to the common travel area, as agreed to by the UK and Ireland.’
Defending the new travel regulations yesterday, the First Minister said: ‘In a situation like this, it is absolutely incumbent on somebody like me to do my level best to do the right things and the necessary things, even if these are not always popular or welcome things.
‘I would be failing in my responsibility if I didn’t do that on travel restrictions.’
The UK today recorded 22,915 new cases – a drop of 31.5 per cent compared to last week – and 501 deaths, a drop of 11 per cent.
Of those, 1,089 cases were in Scotland, while 50 deaths were reported north of the border.
Eleven council areas in West Central Scotland, with a total population of 2.3million, enter Level 4 lockdown from 6pm on Friday.
All non-essential shops as well as pubs, restaurants, cafes, swimming pools, gyms and tourist attractions will be forced to shut.
Tonight, shoppers flocked to their local highstreets to enjoy one last hit of non-essential shopping before the rules kick in.
Pictures showed vast swathes of locals taking advantage of the shops before they – along with gyms and beauty salons – have to close their doors.
What was previously guidance asking Scots to avoid travel into or out of Level 3 or Level 4 areas will now be put into law, with a £60 fine levied against those who break the rules.
And today, MSPs voted by 99 to 23 to back the restrictions. Today’s parliamentary debate was not to approve or reject the changes, but to express the support of the parliament for the regulations.
An amendment by the Conservatives, which was voted down by 71 votes to 51, called for the Scottish Government to publish evidence for the move into the highest level of restrictions.
Scottish Labour attempted to amend the Government motion to strip away the travel ban and push for mass testing and improvements to Test and Protect, but MSPs rejected the amendment by 99 to 22.
A Green amendment pushing the Scottish Government to improve support for self isolating people also passed unanimously.
Under the Scottish government’s coronavirus restrictions all non-essential shops must close in Level Four areas while travel is restricted to essential journeys only
Under the Scottish government’s coronavirus restrictions people in Level Four areas are not allowed to meet people from other households indoors but they can meet outdoors
People living within Level Three or Level Four lockdown areas – which includes vast swathes of central Scotland – are also not permitted to leave their area. Pictured: Shoppers in Glasgow flock to a highstreet before a three-week lockdown sees non-essential shops close in Level 4 areas
Vast crowds were seen in Glasgow on the last evening of non-essential shopping before the area is plunged back into lockdown
A motorway signs carries a ‘Stay Local’ message as the Scottish Government prepares to put travel restrictions into law from Friday
Closing the debate, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: ‘Despite some of the differences of opinion that have been shared this afternoon, I am in no doubt … we all have a shared objective of seeking to suppress the virus as best we can and to manage our country through the course of this pandemic as best we can.’
Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: ‘We have not yet heard of the justification for maintaining a Level 4 lockdown for three weeks and the Scottish Government has not shared any evidence as to why that particular length of time.
‘I wonder if they would commit to that three-week time span as an absolute maximum period and enshrining that end date in law.’
Mr Cameron also pointed out there has been a ban in Glasgow, East Renfewshire and West Dunbartonshire on household mixing since September 1.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie fought back tears as he paid tribute to those, including his own mother, who had volunteered for vaccine trials, whom he said had put themselves on the ‘biological front line’ to the applause of fellow MSPs.
On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured on Thursday in First Minister’s Questions) announced that areas of west and central Scotland would be moved from Level 3 to Level 4 from Friday for three weeks, which would see non-essential shops and hospitality businesses close
Scotland’s Level 0-4 system, how it works:
Level 0: As close to normal as possible. Broadly in line with the situation in Scotland in August when the virus was suppressed but still around. At this level people can meet indoors with eight people from three households and most businesses would be open safety measures in place.
Level 1: Household meetings reduced to six people from two households but a reasonable degree of normality overall.
Level 2: Limitations on hospitality and no gatherings inside people’s homes.
Level 3: Much of hospitality being closed completely. But restaurants able to be open ‘at least partially’.
Level 4: Closer to a full lockdown, with non-essential shops closed. But six people from up two households could still meet outdoors.
He added: ‘We should pay immense respect to those many people, because if we as a parliament can show the same selflessness in the way that we do our work to keep our country safe as they have shown, we’ll be not doing too badly.’
The Transport Secretary thanked Mr Harvie’s mother in his closing speech.
Labour leader Richard Leonard railed against the travel restrictions which will be brought in on Friday by regulation.
He said: ‘This Government travel ban looks like a poorly conceived and ill-considered piece of legislation rather than the evidence-based intervention we need.
‘It risks uneven application and, as a result, uneven treatment across Scotland and the risk is this uncertainty will eat away at the trust of the public.’
Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie looked back to the summer, where Scotland saw several weeks without a single death of someone confirmed to have coronavirus, claiming that the work was not done during this time, including the testing of people without symptoms, to ensure these restrictions would not be necessary.
He said: ‘The Government opposed – and I use that word wisely – mass asymptomatic testing, they believed that a negative test would make people relax and ignore the rules.’
Mr Rennie said that the Scottish Government did not increase testing capacity as a result of this, but praised that ministers now agree asymptomatic testing is necessary, adding that they are now ‘rushing to catch up’.