Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon publishes post-lockdown plan

Nicola Sturgeon gazumps Downing Street again as Scottish government publishes its own plan for easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions

  • Scottish First Minister publishing paper today setting out end-of-lockdown plan
  • Ms Sturgeon said it will contain ‘principles that will guide us’ in months ahead
  • Arlene Foster suggested Northern Ireland could ease measures before rest of UK
  • Comes as Downing Street is under growing pressure to publish its own blueprint 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Nicola Sturgeon will today pile pressure on the UK government to set out a plan for easing the coronavirus lockdown as the Scottish First Minister publishes her own strategy for getting back to normal. 

The Scottish government will publish a paper later today containing guidelines which Ms Sturgeon hopes will help chart a way forward for when social distancing restrictions begin to be lifted. 

The paper will say that people will need to get used to a ‘new normal’ when draconian measures are replaced with something more flexible. 

Ms Sturgeon’s decision to press ahead, independent of the British government, suggests the SNP leader is leaving the door open to Scotland taking a different approach to the one advocated in Westminster.

Many of the powers relating to the current lockdown are devolved which means Scotland could in theory opt to do its own thing. 

Last night Arlene Foster suggested Northern Ireland could emerge from coronavirus restrictions at a faster pace than other parts of the UK. 

The First Minister said lockdown measures will be eased when certain scientific and public health criteria are met and not against set timelines or dates.

So far the four Home Nations have been broadly on the same page in terms of action taken during the crisis and any decision to split from that way of working would have major political and social ramifications. 

The publication of the new Scottish document is likely to spark fresh anger in Downing Street.

Dominic Raab said last night it will be weeks before ministers even ‘think about’ putting forward a comprehensive exit strategy while Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said some restrictions are likely to be in place for the ‘next calendar year’. 

Nicola Sturgeon is today publishing a paper which will contain ‘principles that will guide us’ in easing coronavirus lockdown

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly gazumped Number 10 during the coronavirus crisis as she has moved on key issues before ministers in London. 

Previous examples include announcing a ban on large social gatherings, closing schools and saying that the original three week lockdown would be extended. 

The end-of-lockdown strategy document being published by the Scottish government today is expected to make clear that in the immediate future some changes to everyday life will remain in place. 

Senior figures at Holyrood are insistent the paper has been designed to start a discussion on what measures will need to stay in effect. 

But the publication of the blueprint is unlikely to be well received in Whitehall where ministers are adamant the focus must remain on slowing the spread of the virus, with Mr Raab saying yesterday the UK must not ‘take our eye off the ball’.  

Speaking ahead of its publication, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘The lockdown measures currently in place are absolutely necessary to suppress the virus, protect our health service and to save lives.

‘But we need to chart a way forward, and this paper sets out the principles that will guide us.

‘The public across Scotland have acted responsibly in the face of this ongoing threat, and it is only right that we treat people like grown-ups by sharing our thinking with them on how we can move beyond the current lockdown phase.

‘This paper is high level at this stage but will evolve into a detailed plan as our evidence develops.

‘Life may not return to normal for some time yet, but there is a way forward, and ultimately we will come through this challenge.’ 

The impact of coronavirus has not been as severe in Northern Ireland as other parts of the UK with the region having recorded 250 deaths in the pandemic as of yesterday.

Mrs Foster was asked whether the contrasting experiences meant Northern Ireland could move away from lockdown at a different pace to the rest of the UK.

‘It will be led by the criteria that will be set down and agreed by ourselves in the Northern Ireland Executive in conjunction with the our colleagues in the other parts of the UK,’ she told Cool FM.

‘And because of that you could well see different parts of the United Kingdom move in different time to other parts, because it will be criteria-led.’   

Last night Mr Raab delivered a tough message to Britons wearying of the lockdown, warning that the UK is still ‘going through the peak’ of coronavirus.

The First Secretary of State said it was not the time to ‘take our eye off the ball’ as he rejected claims the government is preparing to ease curbs in mid-May. 

Meanwhile, Prof Whitty suggested some form of restrictions will have to remain in place for the ‘next calendar year’. 

He said the only way to completely get back to normal life is if a vaccine is developed which works or if drugs are developed which can stop so many people dying from the disease. 

He told the daily Downing Street press conference: ‘Until we have those – and the probability of having those any time in the next calendar year are incredibly small – we should be realistic that we’re going to have to rely on other social measures, which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment.’  


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