Bill Heaney reporting from First Minister’s daily briefing
Ignorance is no excuse in law. The “I didnae know” brigade, who caused the scandal of police having to break up 797 gatherings in breach of the just-eased coronavirus lockdown laws at the weekend, will be in real trouble if they venture out again today (Monday).
And the guidelines could be enforced by new laws if “even a minority” continue to flout them in places like Loch Lomondside, Balloch, Helensburgh, Glen Fruin and Glencoe, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The first minister relaxed restrictions on Friday, allowing more people to meet up while outdoors.
And they did when they went out to disport themselves in glorious sunshine in parks and beaches and beauty spots.
She said the “vast majority” had complied with recommendations not to travel and to keep gatherings small.
The FM said it was clear that not everyone had complied with her advice to “keep the heid,” and not to go over the score, with police dispersing 797 gatherings on Saturday.
The knuckle draggers, the drunks, junkies and all the other usual suspects let Ms Sturgeon – and the whole of Scotland – down by littering the shores of the Bonnie Banks and even dumping human waste in places like Glencoe.
Perhaps the councils and quangos such as the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority will now regret locking the public toilets all along the A82 from Balloch to Oban.
The advice before Saturday was to limit the distance of your car journey to five miles and to go beyond that only if you were visiting your parents and other members of your family.
With car traffic trebling at some beauty spots, the first minister said she would not hesitate to put restrictions on group size and travel distance into law if this behaviour persisted.
People from two different households are allowed to meet up outdoors in groups of no more than eight, but hundreds of people gave the impression they can’t count and gathering upon gathering in parks and people’s gardens exceeded that time and again.
Ignorance can be cured by information and education but stupid if forever.
The FM believes that information is the way forward in the circumstances now facing the country, and that’s why she is urging people who haven’t already read it to go to the Scottish Government website where they will get all the information they need to inform them about how to conduct themselves during the pandemic.
Simon Johnson from The Telegraph asked how quickly possible changes to the law could be made and wonders if the ‘stay at home’ message is still correct.
Stay at home continues to be the right message for now as that is what we are telling people to do the majority of the time, said the first minister.
She added that there is “no excuse” for people not knowing what they should and should not be doing as the guidance is available.
A decision on whether to put the latest guidance into law would not have to wait until the next lockdown review, but this is not a decision she wants to take.
Briefing – Sturgeon, Freeman and Smith.
FM Nicola She added: “We all need to continue to do the right thing and to do right by each other. Let’s stick together and all do the right thing.”
She ended her briefing with a personal anecdote, saying: “Until this weekend, I didn’t know anyone personally in my own family, friends or close colleague network who had this virus in a significant way. That changed this weekend.
“Why am I telling you this? That is because this virus is still out there. Even with these numbers going down, there are still people being tested positive for this virus. It is ready to pounce and we must stick to these guidelines.
“I will always err on the side of caution and I will never apologise for that because I don’t want to be standing here announcing the number of people who have died. If we move too quickly and without due care and caution, then we risk this going in the wrong direction.
“I would rather have the restrictions in place longer than people dying. I can tell you what I want you to do and the reasons why I want you to do it, and put things in law, but we will ultimately succeed or fail here by the strength of our collective action and so far we are succeeding.”
The FM told reporters at her daily briefing that the opening schools would not have confidence of parents.
Schools in England have opened, but they have returned to a different kind of classroom, she said.
The FM says it is “too early” for children to be going back to school in Scotland, and “I don’t think it would have the confidence of vast majority of parents either”.
While we will see teachers preparing for the new term in June [the government have still to agree this with the EIS and other unions] and hubs will be open for more children, schools will not generally open before August 11.
People should stay at home as much as possible, the FM said, and anyone meeting up with other households should do so in groups of no more than eight people – “we should not meet people from more than one other household each day. We must keep more than 2m apart from those from other households.”
Chris Musson from The Scottish Sun asked about deaths in care homes.
He drew attention to the fact that one care home group had accused the Scottish government of “adopting a clear policy to deflect from their own mismanagement of the pandemic’s impact on care homes by turning the focus on home managers and owners”.
Ms Sturgeon said she “emphatically disagrees”, adding that she sees it as a collaborative approach between care home providers, the Scottish government and other partners.
“I have never tried to point the finger or say that one partner in any of that is in any way responsible exclusively,” she added.
What about those shielding?
What about the shielded group? The UK government has changed the advice to those shielding in England, but in Scotland the advice remains the same.
Nicola Sturgeon said these are the people most at risk of becoming seriously unwell and before the advice is changed they want to make sure they have given the changes proper and full consideration.
The CMO, Dr Gregor Smith, said the shielded group had been “particularly on my mind” because of the extra burden they have been under.
“My judgment is that it’s just not the time yet” to change the restrictions those being asked to shield are living with,” Dr Smith added. “We owe it to them to make sure that we do this cautiously and properly.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said clinical advice was being sought for the whole group – “They are considering whether different advice for those with different conditions would be appropriate.
“We need to take our time to be sure that we’ve got this right. We have not forgotten about you by any means.”
She was asked what healthcare workers think of the people who had broken the rules over the weekend and said they would be “disappointed”.
“Clap for Carers isn’t enough – we have to show our appreciation by following the rules to continue helping the health service.
“If the virus goes out of control” it won’t be possible to restart the health service.”
Nicola Sturgeon said she “makes no apology” for the slow and cautious approach the Scottish government has taken in coming out of lockdown.
This was despite the fact that there has been huge criticism from health experts and scientists that the government has done this too early.
Will the first minister consider more police road blocks?
Alan Smith, from Radio Clyde, wondered what discussions what discussions the first minister was having with Police Scotland about further enforcement of the lockdown rules and, in particular, about the five-mile travelling limit.
He says police on Loch Lomondside were turning cars away from Drymen at the weekend despite that not being law and asked if she would welcome similar road blocks in the future.
The FM replied that discussions are currently ongoing and it is up to the police to make their own decisions – “We will consider any action that has the desired effect, which is making sure that we don’t have a change in behaviour that goes beyond what we think is safe.
“The reason we didn’t put five miles in law is because we left a bit of flexibility there for people to visit family members.”
Given the flouting of guidelines, the fly dumping and litter left on the beaches and beauty spots, one reporter wondered if the first minister stood by her previous statements that she is proud of the Scottish people.
“I am actually,” Nicola Sturgeon replies. “I am proud of the vast majority of the country who have been doing the right thing and continue to do that.
“I don’t want the behaviour of a minority to obscure that – and to threaten the progress we’ve made. I will continue to appeal to people’s better judgement,” she said.
BBC Scotland’s Reevel Alderson said the first minister had been praiseworthy of the population for abiding by the rules, but asked if she was also critical of those who have flouted them.
Ms Sturgeon said she was “critical of that” because they were putting themselves and the people around them at risk, as well as the general well-being of the country.
“If people are just not bothering about the regulations then I will criticise that,” she said. “The point I am making is that the majority complied and the majority of those who didn’t did not do it because they don’t care.
“I am going to continue to appeal to people’s better judgement.”
The FM said she will not hesitate to use the law to enforce group sizes and travel distances after traffic around beauty spots.
The number of people who have died in Scotland after testing positive for Covid-19 now stands at 2,363 following one further confirmed death
NHS services suspended because of coronavirus – including dental treatment and cancer referrals – are to be gradually restored
The health secretary says Scotland now has capacity to carry out 15,500 tests a
Will people of Scotland ignore restrictions even if made law?
Peter MacMahon, of ITV Border, suggests it is a problem for both the Scottish and UK governments that, once begun to ease restrictions, people might not go along with the restrictions even if they are made law.
However, Ms Sturgeon suggested that the evidence of the last few months was the opposite of that – people had been doing the right thing for the right reasons.
She understood and shared the public’s frustration but “if we give in to the frustration, the country will be back to square one”.
Gordon Chree, from STV, suggested at the weekend the flouting of the rules was pretty widespread and wondered how concerned the first minister is that this will lead to an increase in infections.
Nicola Sturgeon thought that, despite images on social media, the vast majority of people will have been complying because they know it is important.
But she said the strength of her message about sticking to the rules underlines the concern she has long had that people’s behaviour may change too quickly.
She does not think people flouting the rules do not care but suggests it is more to do with not understanding the guidance.