Tale of Two Cities: Crowds of shoppers flock to Edinburgh’s bustling centre – while an hour up the M8 Glasgow streets lie deserted after being plunged into tough Tier 4 lockdown
- Entering or leaving Scotland without a reasonable excuse for the travel was banned from 6pm last night
- Anyone caught breaking the new border rules imposed this evening could be slapped with a £60 fine
- People living in Level Three or Level Four lockdown areas of Scotland are also banned from leaving
- But experts have slammed the ‘poorly conceived’ idea which could lead to an ‘abuse of human rights’
Drivers who cross the border face a £60 fine BUT police won’t set up road blocks and say ‘enforcement’ is a last resort
Are all people banned from leaving or entering Scotland from 6pm on Friday?
Yes, apart from a small number of exemptions.
Nicola Sturgeon’s legislation demands that any person living in Scotland must not enter England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland from on Friday.
The First Minister has also made it illegal for people living in those countries to enter Scotland.
Anyone breaching the rules will be fined £60, she says.
There are some exemptions including leaving Scotland to take a driving test, feeding an animal, donating blood or for some work, education and health reasons.
Will police be setting up road blocks?
No road blocks will be set up and police say they will not be patrolling the border looking for people breaking the law.
Instead they will enforce the new law if they come across transgressors in the ‘course of duty’.
Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs says they want people to ‘do the right thing’.
He added: ‘We will use enforcement as a last resort where there is a clear breach of the legislation.
‘The chief constable has said publicly on numerous occasions that we will not be routinely stopping vehicles or setting up road blocks, and that will not change as a result of travel restrictions now being in law.
‘However, officers may in the course of their duties come across people who are travelling from one local authority area to another.
‘In areas where travel restrictions apply, officers will continue to use the common sense, discretion and excellent judgement that they have applied since the crisis began.’
Huge crowds of shoppers flocked to Edinburgh’s bustling city centre, while Level Four Glasgow’s streets remained deserted on the first day of sweeping new lockdown restrictions covering vast swathes of Scotland.
As of 6pm last night, two million Scots were plunged into a draconian Level Four lockdown covering 11 different council areas – including Glasgow, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire.
Under the strict rules, all non-essential shops were forced to close for three weeks alongside restaurants, cafes and bars leaving highstreets all but deserted and store windows shuttered.
But Edinburgh remains in Level Three, meaning locals eager to get a head start on their Christmas shopping can do so in person.
Entering or leaving Scotland without a reasonable excuse has also been banned under the new rules, and anyone caught doing so could now be hit with a £60 fine.
People living within Level Three or Level Four lockdown areas are not permitted to leave their area.
But some experts have claimed rules on crossing the border cannot be legally put in place by the Scottish parliament, with one MP warning: ‘Any self-respecting lawyer would advise a client not to pay a fine.’
Concerns have also been raised that the ‘hasty legislation’ could confuse the public and lead to Scots inadvertently travelling into areas where they should not be.
One example used was that people living in Glasgow cannot travel to Glasgow Airport, as it is in Renfrewshire – even though there are no restrictions on flying out of the country.
Shoppers in Glasgow, which was plunged under Level Four restrictions on Friday, made a last-minute dash for Christmas presents yesterday as shops prepared to close for three weeks.
Some stores in the city’s Buchanan Street and Argyle Street – including TK Maxx, Debenhams and House of Fraser – closed ahead of the 6pm deadline, leaving a few frustrated shoppers searching for gifts elsewhere.
The High Street was left deserted as the 6pm cut-off hit, with employees seen pulling the metal shutters down on stores and locking gates to shopping centres.
At the Berwick border in Northumberland, police made no moves to enforce the crossing ban after the clock struck six – with traffic still flowing slowly between England and Scotland.
Around 15 miles away in the village of Coldstream, it appeared to be business as usual in the Borders as cars and lorries continued to pass through.
Cumbria Police yesterday confirmed to MailOnline they would not be conducting border checks and would expect anyone travelling to England to comply with the English lockdown rules currently in place.
As Ms Sturgeon faced a growing backlash over the new rules:
- Scotland has recorded 32 deaths from coronavirus and 1,018 positive tests in the past 24 hours;
- 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 rules begin;
- Nicola Sturgeon is considering whether tougher curbs will be necessary in January as a result of relaxing 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.
Huge crowds of shoppers flocked to Edinburgh’s bustling city centre (pictured), while Level Four Glasgow’s streets remained deserted on the first day of sweeping new lockdown restrictions covering vast swathes of Scotland
As of 6pm last night, two million Scots were plunged into a draconian Level Four lockdown covering 11 different council areas – including Glasgow (pictured), East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire
Under the strict rules, all non-essential shops were forced to close for three weeks alongside restaurants, cafes and bars leaving highstreets all but deserted (pictured) and store windows shuttered
But Edinburgh (pictured) remains in Level Three, meaning locals eager to get a head start on their Christmas shopping can do so in person
Who is top of the UK coronavirus chart? England has the highest rate of Covid-19 infections, according to official data, followed by Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland
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
Ms Sturgeon announced the controversial restrictions for Scotland on Tuesday in yet another attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19, with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard dubbing the travel ban a ‘poorly conceived and ill-considered piece of legislation.’
Despite the First Minister’s attempt to halt movement between Scotland and England, a list of bizarre exceptions to the rules have been put in place which would allow the travel restrictions to be breached.
Walkers call for countryside access
Scotland’s hillwalkers have called for the travel ban to be relaxed to prevent overcrowding in city parks.
Mountaineering Scotland has written to the Scottish Government urging it to be more flexible so that residents in Levels 3 and 4 are not prevented from accessing nearby countryside.
The group says it is vital for mental and physical wellbeing that hiking and other outdoor recreation continues.
In a statement, Mountaineering Scotland said: ‘For many in these areas, even access to the country parks that serve the city will be out of reach under the travel laws, and the organisation is calling for flexibility to allow people to safely access local areas for outdoor recreation, and to help spread the load from urban parks.
‘What is now clear, is that under this latest move to Level 4 for 11 local authority areas, inequalities of access to the outdoors have been further exacerbated, particularly in cities.
‘International research shows that there is a very low risk of transmitting the virus when participating in mountaineering activities.’
Scots are permitted to 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, work or for school.
Scottish Labour transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: ‘The chaotic scenes witnessed as people took to the roads and shops before the travel ban comes into force shows how ill-conceived this legislation is: hasty legislation will lead to a hasty reaction from the public.
‘The catalogue of events that has led to another lockdown highlights the need for better scrutiny: the botched return of students to universities, the refusal to introduce testing at our airports – where 168,000 people arrived in Scotland between June and November who were required to quarantine but only 12 per cent of them were then followed up by contact tracers – and a failure to introduce widespread mass testing across the country of frontline workers.
‘More and more is being asked of members of the public. The rules and laws they are being made to follow are beco-ming more confusing and come as a direct result of Scottish Government incompetence, not the public’s. The SNP Government must pause before it criminalises that confusion.’
Gill and Iain Dickson, who live in the border village of Coldstream, were careful not to cross the border line into England on Friday as they usually would while on their evening stroll.
The pair, in their mid-50s, are in favour of the travel ban despite the restrictions meaning they will not be able to see their daughters, who live in England, for three weeks.
Mrs Dickson said: ‘I technically can’t see my daughters for three weeks now. That will make a difference for me but we’ve kept a close eye on it all from the beginning.
‘People are generally quite happy around here with [the restrictions], but there are a lot of people who work and cross the border. There will still be cross-border traffic.’
Her husband added: ‘I think if people had just behaved themselves, stayed on the area and do what they were asked to do instead of moving around, they wouldn’t have caused the problem. I think it’s absolutely right to do it.’
However, some passing through the border at Berwick ahead of the 6pm cut-off did not share the couple’s positive attitude.
Entering or leaving Scotland without a reasonable excuse has also been banned under the new rules, and anyone caught doing so could now be hit with a £60 fine. Pictured: A woman jogging in Glasgow on Saturday
Mark Watt, who was in Berwick visiting an ill relative, said he didn’t understand how people crossing the border can be policed. He faces a 220-mile trip back to his home in Aberdeenshire on Sunday, two days after the closure.
‘They can’t really stop you,’ he said. ‘People cross the border for a lot of reasons.
‘However, you probably shouldn’t be leaving your area to do non-essential things like shopping. I’m only down here visiting a relative who is very poorly, it’s probably the last time I’ll see her. ‘
Mr Watt, 52, added: ‘Unless they stop every car and ask about their reason for crossing, how are they going to police it?
‘A lot of people have genuine reasons for crossing the border, I’ll be crossing it one way or the other to get home.’
Alan Brown, from Berwick, has been a taxi driver for eight years but now faces uncertainty over where he can and can’t travel for work following Friday’s 6pm deadline.
‘I think it’s a ridiculous idea,’ the 37-year-old said. ‘There’s people who cross the border who need to do things like see their family. ‘I think it’s another one of Nicola Sturgeon’s daft ideas and I think it’s just her stroking her ego.
‘To be honest, the dual carriageway in Berwick isn’t the only way of getting in and out of Scotland – people can use other ways.
‘If they’re going to do it properly then they’re going to have to spend a fortune doing it. They don’t have enough police as it is to patrol the streets so I don’t know where they’re going to find the resources to do it.
‘For us at work, it means we’re going to suffer as a result of this. We can’t do jobs either side of the border depending on what the terms and conditions are at work.
‘I’m not 100 per cent sure how things are going to pan out.’
Michele Kane, who lives in Eyemouth just north of the border, admitted the travel ban is a ‘contentious issue’ but added it ‘makes sense in terms of controlling Covid-19.’
‘It will bring some difficulties for locals,’ she said. ‘For me personally though I think it’s a good move. People are actually dying from coronavirus. We have still got the shops open and we’re not in complete lockdown.
‘I don’t go through the border much to be honest. Fundamentally, I just stay in my home town usually so it shouldn’t effect me too much.’
Ms Sturgeon yesterday insisted the restrictions will help infection rates come down further before the festive period.
‘The fact is the fewer people who are in the population who have Covid by the time we get to Christmas, the lower the risk of people being infected with it during that period,’ she told the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing.
‘It’s very important for me to be clear that the risks would not be zero – which is why we must be very careful about any relaxation over Christmas and people will have to think carefully themselves, even with any relaxation, about what they want to do or not.’
On Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said the chief medical officers of the UK nations have been tasked with developing a ‘concrete’ proposal for household mixing, details of which could be revealed next week.
Ms Sturgeon also said the new travel restrictions are ‘vital’ to ensure there is no need for a national lockdown.
‘These travel restrictions – nobody likes them, I don’t like them – but they are vital in helping us minimise these risks,’ she said. ‘They are vital in helping us avoid having the whole country in the same level or restrictions.
‘It is these travel restrictions that mean that even although the central belt has to be in Level Four, we can avoid the Highlands or Edinburgh or parts of the country with lower prevalence being in Level Four too.’
The First Minister admitted to being ‘utterly scunnered and fed up’ with new coronavirus restrictions.
But she said life could return to some semblance of normality by spring, with the Scottish Government hoping to have vaccinated one million Scots by the end of January.
‘These restrictions are difficult and we are all scunnered and fed up, and I’m not going to stand here and pretend otherwise because I feel that same sense of being utterly scunnered and fed up as the rest of you do,’ she said.
‘But we do now see a possible end in sight and I think it’s really important that we don’t forget that.’
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has dubbed Ms Sturgeon’s travel ban a ‘poorly conceived and ill-considered piece of legislation rather than the evidence-based intervention we need.’
He added: ‘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.’
Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins has also claimed there are ‘serious legal questions to be asked about the draft regulations published by the Scottish Government which include rules about who may ‘enter and remain in’ Scotland.’
He said: ‘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.
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.
‘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.’
Speaking to the BBC yesterday, Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene said that there was a ‘lack of clarity around the enforceability’ of the latest restrictions.
And he said he had spoken to people who were ‘nervous and concerned’ about their area moving into Level 4 – despite accepting the measures were ‘necessary’.
Mr Greene said: ‘There are dozens of exemptions for all sorts of reasons as to why you can travel from one tier to another and I’m not convinced there is enough detail in that, or if the public are aware of those rules which come into play at 6pm tonight.
‘There is a duty for government to be absolutely clear on what you can and can’t do.’
Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles warned that ‘any self-respecting lawyer would advise a client not to pay a fine’ while Mr Leonard slammed the ban as ‘deeply flawed’.
The Scottish Labour leader added: ‘People want a government that works with them, not against them, on things such as the travel restrictions.
‘As things stand, the best-case scenario is that the travel ban will confuse them; the worst-case scenario is that it will criminalise them.’
The travel regulations, published on Thursday, 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’.
Speaking about people crossing the border to England, a spokesman for Cumbria Police said: ‘Anyone travelling to England must comply with the English Regulations.
‘This means that they must have a valid reason for leaving their home e.g. work, study, shopping for essentials, exercise and they must abide by other regulations including not staying overnight away from their home.
‘The same applies for people from England travelling to Scotland so anybody travelling to Scotland must make themselves aware of the Regulations in the area of Scotland they intend to travel to.
‘Cumbria Police are not conducting any sort of border checks and will continue to us the 4E approach to compliance, using Enforcement regardless of where people may have started their journey.’
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’.
Dr Nick McKerrell, a senior lecturer in law at Glasgow Caledonian University and an expert in human rights law, told the Scotsman: ‘Public health is a long-standing reason for state intervention limiting individuals’ human rights.
‘However, the big difference with a legal enforcement of a travel ban within local authority boundaries are that for it to be operationally possible, it requires giving arbitrary powers to the police to stop random cars.
‘This is something we do not allow in our law for drink driving offences – there needs to be a reason that the police stop the car.
‘What sort of drivers will be stopped under the travel ban? People driving late at night? People driving near local authority boundaries? People whose cars are registered outwith the area they are travelling in? No one knows. It is in that legal climate that abuse of human rights becomes more likely.
‘The law when published will need to be explicitly clear on what precise power it is giving to police officers.’
Quarantine to be cut to five days
Travel quarantine will be cut to just five days next week to help get Britain flying again.
Ministers have approved a plan to change the 14-day isolation rule that has crippled the aviation and travel sectors.
Under a ‘test and release’ scheme, which will be introduced next month, travellers will have to quarantine for five days before being tested.
If the result is negative they will be released from isolation immediately. Fast-turnaround tests, which produce results inside an hour, will be used.
The cruise industry is also to make a phased restart by February.
Scottish Government officials are involved in the work of the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which seeks a four-nation approach and was launched last month.
It is understood to have recommended a seven-day quarantine, with travellers returning from Covid hotspots tested after five days and released two days later.
Ministers persuaded Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty that the increasing reliability of the fast-turnaround tests meant there was no reason they should not be used. Tests will have to be paid for privately by passengers to avoid increasing pressure on NHS resources.
Ministers insist some form of quarantine remains essential to prevent cases from abroad sparking a third wave of the virus next year.
A Scottish government spokesman told the Guardian that the regulations are ‘entirely within the remit of the Scottish parliament’.
They said: ‘Restrictions on unnecessary travel are in place in law in various forms in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland and in many parts of Europe.
‘In Scotland they are necessary to underpin an approach that puts different parts of the country under different levels of protective measures.’
The First Minister added: ‘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.’
Eleven council areas in West Central Scotland, with a total population of 2.3million, entered Level Four lockdown at 6pm on Friday.
All non-essential shops as well as pubs, restaurants, cafes, swimming pools, gyms and tourist attractions were forced to shut until December 11.
Last night, 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 yesterday, MSPs voted by 99 to 23 to back the restrictions. The 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.
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.’
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
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.
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.
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’.
Why are we waiting for 6pm to lift shutdown?
By Rachel Watson for the Scottish Daily Mail
Shops will have just 13 days of trading before Christmas in Level 4 areas, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
Retailers yesterday warned it is the ‘worst possible moment’ for non-essential shops to be ‘forcibly shuttered’.
Eleven council areas were plunged last night into near-lockdown restrictions which will last for three full weeks.
This means that non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers, cafes, restaurants and pubs will not reopen until 6pm on December 11.
Last night retailers said this will leave the majority of shops with just 13 full trading days before closing again for Christmas.
Speaking at her daily briefing on the pandemic, Miss Sturgeon said yesterday: ‘These restrictions are difficult and we are all scunnered and fed up and I’m not going to stand here and pretend otherwise because I feel that same sense of being utterly scunnered and fed up as the rest of you do.
‘But we do now see a possible end in sight and I think it’s really important that we don’t forget that.
‘Level 4 restrictions will be lifted on December 11 – they come into effect at 6pm today and they will be lifted at 6pm on December 11 – that full three-week period.’
Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale welcomed the clarity, but warned that the shutdown will leave many shop owners facing severe financial difficulties over the coming months.
He said: ‘It leaves those shops which have been forcibly closed for three weeks with only 13 days’ trading between now and Christmas.
‘This is the worst possible moment for many non-food retailers to be forcibly shuttered, and leaves precious little time to generate the pre-Christmas revenues which many will need to tide them over the leaner winter months.’
Scottish Conservative economy spokesman Maurice Golden said last night: ‘Businesses in the retail sector need urgent support from the SNP in light of having to shut their doors again, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
‘They need hope, and every hour that they are not open will be a hammer blow to our retailers.’
Mr Golden added: ‘SNP ministers must ensure our retailers do not face any confusion when it comes to re-opening, otherwise their future prospects will only be further damaged.’
As the 6pm deadline for non- essential stores in Level 4 areas to close drew nearer yesterday, shoppers descended to grab presents for Christmas.
Long queues could be seen in Glasgow outside city-centre branches of Lush, Zara and Jo Malone.
In the city’s Springburn area, popular retailer Costco was inundated with shoppers bulk-buying items to keep them stocked up for the next three weeks of lockdown.
Trolleys were full to the brim with children’s toys as long queues of people piled into the Smyth’s shop at Glasgow Fort.
The city’s Buchanan Street was as busy as a pre-pandemic midweek afternoon as hundreds of shoppers filled the popular retail area.
However, some were left frustrated when several stores both there and in Argyle Street – including TK Maxx, Debenhams and House of Fraser – closed ahead of the 6pm cut-off point.
In Paisley, shoppers stood in the rain as they waited to get into stores on the High Street. Shops there are now shut after Renfrewshire was also placed in Level 4.
A line of people had formed outside Marks and Spencer by 11am.
There are fears that some frustrated people living in Level 4 areas might simply ignore the travel ban and go where the shops are open.
Addressing those concerns yesterday, Miss Sturgeon said: ‘If you live in Glasgow, as I do, do not travel to Edinburgh to go shopping.
‘Because not only will you be breaking the law, you will be risking taking the virus from Glasgow to Edinburgh and putting people in Edinburgh at risk.
‘That sounds blunt, but given what we face right now, I think it’s important for me to be blunt.’