First Minister launches Scottish National Investment Bank

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has officially launched the Scottish National Investment Bank.

It will be backed by £2bn of Scottish Government funding over the next decade

Scot Gov: “It will help to tackle some of the biggest challenges Scotland faces now and in years to come, delivering economic, social and environmental returns.”


The Scottish National Investment Bank has officially opened for business with the completion of its first major investment.

It is the UK’s first mission-led development bank and it is being capitalised by the Scottish Government with £2 billion over ten years.

The bank’s proposed missions will focus on supporting Scotland’s transition to net zero, extending equality of opportunity through improving places, and harnessing innovation to enable Scotland to flourish.

It will provide patient capital – a form of long term investment – for businesses and projects in Scotland, and catalyse further private sector investment.

Today’s £12.5 million investment in Glasgow-based laser and quantum technology company M Squared will support the company’s further growth in Scotland and speaks to the bank’s proposed core missions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“The Scottish National Investment Bank will help to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face now and in the years to come, delivering economic, social and environmental returns.

“It is hitting the ground running with its first major investment in M Squared – a great example of the ambitious and innovative companies we have here in Scotland that will be key to our economic recovery and future prosperity.

“The launch of the bank is one of the most significant developments in the lifetime of this parliament, with the potential for it to transform, grow and decarbonise Scotland’s economy.”

Scottish National Investment Bank Chair Willie Watt said:

“Today is a key milestone for the Scottish National Investment Bank. Our launch enables us to make mission-led, strategic, patient investments in businesses and projects that can deliver benefits for the people of Scotland. I am excited about the role the Bank will play in supporting and enabling growth in the Scottish economy.

“We are particularly pleased that our first investment is in M Squared which is at the cutting edge of innovation and is a recognised world-leader in its field. It is our firm belief that the bank will make many more investments that deliver positive mission impacts in the years and decades to come.”

Dr Graeme Malcolm, CEO and founder of M Squared, said:

“Science and advanced technologies have a major role to play in Scotland’s future economic prosperity. By increasing investment in research and development with a mission-based approach, Scotland has a real opportunity to actively tackle climate change and benefit from the coming quantum revolution.

“We are delighted that the Scottish National Investment Bank has invested in M Squared as its very first business – our shared commitments to society and the environment makes this an ideal partnership that will enable accelerated growth and progress in frontier technologies.”

Benny Higgins, Strategic Adviser to the First Minister on the establishment of the bank, said:

“It has been a privilege to be part of an outstanding effort to make this a reality. We could not have predicted that the current pandemic renders the need for mission-led investment even more vital to create a robust, resilient wellbeing economy in Scotland.”


Article Source:

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First Minister Statement on EU and UK Govt talks

Statement on EU and UK Government talks by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Commenting on the EU and UK Government talks, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

It is beyond belief that in the midst of a global pandemic and deep recession the Prime Minister is telling Scotland to get ready for a disastrous No Deal Brexit.

“With less than three months until the end of the transition period, businesses and people across Scotland will be in despair at this extraordinary statement.

“At best this is reckless brinkmanship. At worst it means the UK Government is now actively pursuing a No Deal outcome.

“The reality is Scotland’s economy is going to be damaged by a further needless hit to jobs at the worst possible time, with either a thin trade deal or no deal now the only possible outcomes.

“A completely unnecessary Brexit shock will hit many businesses already struggling with the Covid-19 crisis.

“A No Deal outcome would be particularly disastrous. Scotland could see heavy tariffs on goods, which for some sectors would be crippling.

“Because of the hard-line Brexit position adopted by the UK Government any outcome is going to be damaging, but a No Deal will mean the biggest hit to jobs. The Prime Minister must withdraw his threat to force the hardest possible Brexit on Scotland.

“The Scottish Government view is clear – the best future for Scotland is to become an independent country.”

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Scottish Parliament rejects consent for Internal Market Bill

‘Internal Market Bill should be abandoned’

Parliament rejects consent for “deeply damaging” Bill.

The Internal Market Bill should be withdrawn by the UK Government after consent for it was denied by a majority of the Scottish Parliament, Constitution Secretary Michael Russell has said.

MSPs backed the Scottish Government’s Legislative Consent Memorandum, which states the Bill threatens devolution and breaches international law.

The constitutional convention is that the Westminster Parliament should not legislate in devolved areas without the Scottish Parliament’s consent.

(This article is replicated from the website on 7 Oct 2020)

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said:

“The Scottish Parliament has explicitly – and comprehensively – rejected consent to the Internal Market Bill.

“As far as Scotland is concerned, today’s strong endorsement of the Scottish Government’s stance means this unnecessary Bill should now be withdrawn.

“Indeed no member of the Scottish Parliament who cared about its powers and the wishes of the people of Scotland could have possibly consented to this Bill.

“The Internal Market Bill is an unprecedented threat to the Scottish Parliament’s powers.

“It also means that if lower food and environmental standards are allowed elsewhere in the UK it will force Scotland to accept these standards regardless of any laws passed at Holyrood. The Bill will also mean the UK Government taking control of key devolved spending powers, and the devolved policy area of state aid.

“UK Government ministers have already accepted the Bill will break international law – it would now be outrageous if they decided also to shatter the constitutional convention that the Westminster Parliament does not legislate in devolved areas without consent.

“The Scottish Parliament has overwhelmingly backed this Government’s rejection of the Bill. Now we urge the UK Government, once again, to abandon this deeply damaging Bill.”


First Minister statement on additional COVID restrictions

Below is Nicola Sturgeon’s full statement to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, October 7th, regarding the implementation of additional COVID restrictions in Scotland.

Presiding Officer

I want to update the chamber today on the current position in relation to Covid.

In doing so, I will give an assessment of the current course of the pandemic; propose important temporary measures to stem the increase in cases; set out how we will support businesses affected by them; and update the chamber on the longer term work we are doing to further improve our ability to live with Covid.

And in all of this, I will be very frank about the challenges we face and the difficult balances we must try to strike.

First, though, I will provide a summary of the daily statistics that were published a short time ago.

Since yesterday, an additional 1054 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed.

That represents 13% of the people newly tested, and takes the total number of cases to 34,760.

A total of 319 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed Covid-19, which is an increase of 57 since yesterday.

And 28 people are in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, which is an increase of 3 since yesterday.

And in the past 24 hours, I regret to report that 1 further death has been registered of a patient who had been confirmed as having the virus.

The total number of deaths in Scotland under that measurement is therefore now 2,533.

National Records of Scotland has also just published its weekly update, which includes cases where COVID is a suspected or contributory cause of death.

Today’s update shows that by last Sunday, the total number of registered deaths linked to Covid, under that wider definition, was 4,276.

20 of those deaths were registered last week. That is the highest weekly number of deaths since late June.

Every single one of these deaths represents the loss of a unique and irreplaceable individual.

So once again, I want to send my deepest condolences to all those who are currently grieving.

These figures illustrate the rising challenge we again face from Covid.

That challenge is also set out – starkly – in an evidence paper published today by the Scottish Government’s senior clinical advisors – the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Nursing Officer and the National Clinical Director.

It assesses our current situation in relation to the virus.

And it explains – as I will try to do in this statement – why we need to introduce additional measures to control the virus; why it is urgent that we act now; and why we have decided upon the specific actions that I am setting out today.

Before I come onto that explanation, however, I want to emphasise some of the more positive elements of our current position.

It is important – for the morale of all of us – that we don’t forget that progress has been made. It might not feel this way, but the situation now is better than it was in March.

We are benefiting from the sacrifices we made over the summer. By driving the virus to very low levels then, we have helped to ensure that – even after several weeks of increases – the estimated total number of cases in Scotland is currently just 13% of the peak level back in March.

Cases are rising, but they are not rising as quickly as they were then.

In addition, we now have Test & Protect teams across the country, who are doing exceptional work. Test & Protect is now bearing a lot of the strain of controlling the virus.

And we understand more now about how to reduce the risk of transmission – for example, by meeting outdoors rather than indoors if possible, wearing face coverings, cleaning hands thoroughly, and keeping our distance from people in other households.

So while there are significant restrictions still in place – and they are hard and painful – we are living much more freely now than in the spring and early summer.

We are determined – if at all possible – that this will continue to be the case.

So let me be clear. We are not going back into lockdown today. We are not closing schools, colleges or universities. We are not halting the remobilisation of the NHS for non-Covid care. And we are not asking people to stay at home.

So while the measures I announce today will feel like a backward step, they are in the interests of protecting our progress overall.

It is by taking the tough but necessary action now, that we hope to avoid even tougher action in future.

Let me turn now to specifics.

The need for action is highlighted by the daily figures I reported earlier and, more fundamentally, in the evidence paper published today.

It’s worth remembering that when I updated Parliament just over two weeks ago, the average number of new cases being reported each day was 285. That was up from 102 three weeks previously.

Now, we are reporting an average of 788 new cases each day.

In addition, I can report that in the 7 days up to Monday, the number of people in hospital with Covid increased by almost 80%.

And the number of people who died with Covid last week was the highest for 14 weeks.

In fact, there was the same number of deaths in the last week alone as in the whole of the previous month.

The increase in the numbers of people in hospital with, and sadly dying from Covid reflect the rise we are now seeing in new cases among older age groups. In the second half of September, cases were rising most rapidly in the younger age groups.

However, in the past week, cases in people over 80 years old increased by 60%, and cases in the 60 to 79 year old age group more than doubled.

And we are seeing geographic as well as demographic spread.

Without a doubt – and by some distance – the highest levels of infection are across the central belt.

We are particularly concerned about Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley – and that will be reflected in some of what I say later.

However, that should not obscure the fact that numbers are rising across Scotland.

The majority of our health board areas are now recording more than 50 new cases per 100,000 of their population each week.

And virtually every heath board area has a rising number of cases. The only exceptions are Orkney and Shetland, and even they have had cases in recent weeks.

There is also, as we speak, a significant outbreak in the Western Isles.

So the need to act – and to act across the country – is clear.

What is also clear is the need to take additional action now.

I mentioned earlier that prevalence of the virus is currently around 13% of its March peak.

However, we estimate that the number of new Covid cases is currently growing by 7% each day.

So without action – and this is perhaps the starkest warning in today’s evidence paper – we are likely to return to the peak level of infections we had in the Spring by the end of this month.

It’s also instructive to consider the experience of other countries. Our modelling suggests that we are approximately four weeks behind France and six weeks behind Spain in the resurgence of the virus.

Their resurgence, like ours, was initially concentrated among younger people. However it spread to other age groups and they are now seeing significantly more hospital admissions, more people in intensive care, and more deaths.

It is to interrupt that trajectory that we must act now.

Of course, we have already taken perhaps the most important – and painful – step we can to reduce transmission.

For the last 12 days, apart from certain limited exceptions, we have not been able to meet up in each other’s homes.

That should already be making a difference to infection rates even if, because there is always a time lag between introducing new measures and the impact they have, we are not yet seeing it reflected in our figures.

And let me take the opportunity to emphasise again today how vitally important it is that we all stick to that rule. It’s incredibly hard for all of us not to visit friends and family, or have them visit us. But it is the single most effective measure we can take to stop Covid passing from one household to another.

So please stick with it.

That measure is vital, but the clinical advice I have received now is that it is not sufficient. We need to do more and we need to do it now.

And to those who may wonder if the measures I set out today go too far, let me be clear about this.

If this was a purely one-dimensional decision – if the immediate harm from Covid was all we had to consider – it is quite likely that we would go further.

But, 7 months into this pandemic, I am acutely aware that this is not and cannot be a one-dimensional decision.

We have a duty to balance all of the different harms caused by the pandemic.

We have to consider the direct harm to health from the virus – which must be reduced – alongside the harm being done to jobs and the economy, which in turn has an impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

And we have to consider the wider harms to health and wellbeing that the virus – and the restrictions deployed to control it – are now having on all of us.

For all of these reasons, we are applying a far more targeted approach than we did in March – one which reduces opportunities for the virus to spread, while keeping businesses and other activities as open as possible.

And we are not recommending that people who shielded over the summer, should return to staying completely indoors. We know how damaging that is to your wellbeing. But we do recommend that you take extra care – especially if you live in the central belt. You can now access information about infection levels in your local neighbourhood on the Public Health Scotland website.

Presiding officer, let me now set out the additional measures that we are proposing.

The measures are intended to be in force for 16 days, from Friday at 6pm to Sunday 25 October inclusive – in other words across the next two weeks and three weekends.

So, firstly, with the exception of the five health board areas I will talk about shortly – pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will be able to operate indoors on the following very restricted basis only:

During the day, from 6am to 6pm, for the service of food and non-alcoholic drinks only.

Hotel restaurants will be able to operate beyond 6pm, but only for residents and without alcohol.

The reason we are not closing indoor hospitality completely is that we know the benefits, in terms of reducing loneliness and isolation, of giving people – particularly those who live alone – somewhere they can meet a friend for a coffee and a chat.

But the restrictions will be strictly applied. And all the current regulations and the limits on meeting a maximum of 6 people from 2 households will still apply.

Again with the exception of the central belt areas I will mention shortly, bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes can continue to serve alcohol outdoors up to the existing curfew time of 10pm, and subject to the 6/2 rule on group size.

There will be an exemption to these rules – in all parts of Scotland – for celebrations associated with specific life events such as weddings that are already booked and funerals. The current rules for those will continue to apply.

Presiding Officer,

These are the new measures that will take effect nationwide.

However, because of higher levels of infection in the central belt, we are introducing stricter restrictions in the following five health board areas – Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley.

In these areas, all licensed premises – with the exception of hotels for residents – will be required to close indoors and outdoors, though takeaways will be permitted.

Cafes which don’t have an alcohol license will be able to stay open until 6pm to support social isolation.

In addition, snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls will close in these areas for two weeks from 10 October.

Contact sports for people aged 18 and over will be suspended for the next two weeks – with an exception for professional sports.

And indoor group exercise activities will not be allowed – although the current rules will remain in place for under 18s. Gyms can remain open for individual exercise.

Outdoor live events will not be permitted in these five regions for the next two weeks.

And finally, we are asking people living in these 5 health board areas to avoid public transport unless it is absolutely necessary – for example for going to school or to work, if home working is not an option.

We are not imposing mandatory travel restrictions at this stage, and specifically, we are not insisting that people cancel any half term breaks they have planned.

However, in general, we are advising people living in Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley not to travel outside the health board area they live in, if you don’t need to – and likewise people in other parts of Scotland should not travel to these areas if they don’t need to.

More detail of all that I have just set out will be available on the Scottish Government website.

I now want to set out some of the reasoning behind these decisions, and the focus on hospitality.

I know that the vast majority of pubs, bars and restaurants have worked exceptionally hard over the last few months to ensure the safety of their staff and customers. I am grateful to them for that.

However the evidence paper published today sets out why these settings present a particular risk. The R number seems to have risen above 1 approximately three weeks after the hospitality sector opened up. We know that more than 1/5 of people contacted by test and trace, report having visited a hospitality setting.

That makes sense from what we know about how the virus is spread.

Indoor environments, where different households from different age groups can mix, inevitably present a risk of transmission. That risk can be increased, in some hospitality premises, if good ventilation is difficult, and if it is hard to control the movement of people. And the presence of alcohol can of course affect people’s willingness to physically distance.

For all of these reasons, significantly restricting licensed premises for sixteen days temporarily removes one of the key opportunities the virus has to jump from household to household. It is an essential part of our efforts to get the R number significantly below 1.

It is also worth noting that many other countries are also introducing restrictions on hospitality – Ireland, France, Germany and Belgium have announced a variety of different measures over the past few days.

I mentioned earlier that one of the things we are trying to do is to balance the public health harm caused by Covid, with wider economic and social harms.

I know that the measures we are proposing today will have a significant impact on many businesses. And since the Government is placing an obligation on businesses, we also have an obligation to help businesses.

I can announce that we are making available an additional £40 million to support businesses that will be affected by these measures over the next two weeks. We will work with the affected sectors – especially hospitality – in the coming days to ensure that this money provides the most help, to those who most need it.

For the rest of this month, businesses can also use the UK Government’s job retention scheme. However, that now requires a significant contribution from employers – so one of the things we will discuss with businesses, in relation to our own support package, is how we can mitigate some or all of that contribution.

As I have indicated, our intention is that these additional measures will be in place for just over two weeks, incorporating three weekends – from 6pm on Friday to Sunday, 25 October. However, we will keep the situation under review between now and then, and keep Parliament updated.

We hope that the restrictions already in place and those I have announced today will stem the increase in new cases. However, that is down to all of us.

The more we comply, the more effective they will be.

It is also important that we use the next two weeks to prepare, protect and prevent – to further strengthen our resilience and our ability to live alongside this virus. So we will also take the following steps.

Firstly, we will introduce regulations to extend the mandatory use of face coverings in indoor communal settings – this will include, for example, staff canteens and corridors in workplaces.

We will take action to strengthen compliance with the different strands of the FACTS advice – focusing on areas where we know from research that compliance is not yet high enough, for example, the need to self isolate.

I can also confirm that, from this weekend and across Scotland, we are asking shops to return to 2 metre physical distancing and reintroduce the mitigations they put in place earlier in the pandemic – for example, one way systems.

We will also work across all other sectors to review – and where necessary tighten – the guidance and regulation on their operating practices.

In addition, we will conduct a further review of our testing strategy – setting out the steps we will take to further expand capacity and build resilience and extend testing to more people without symptoms.

And, lastly, we will finalise a strategic framework, setting out the different levels of intervention which can be adopted in future – either locally or across Scotland – depending on how the virus is spreading. We hope to align the broad framework with those adopted by other UK nations – although each nation will take its own decisions on implementation.

We will put this strategic framework to a vote in Parliament after the recess.

Presiding officer,

I am well aware that the measures I have outlined today are disruptive to many businesses – especially hospitality businesses – and will be unwelcome to many people.

However although they are significant – as they need to be, to make an impact – they do not represent a lockdown. In fact, they are designed to reduce the likelihood of a future lockdown.

We are not requiring people to stay inside all day.

Schools will stay open. Learning will continue in our Universities and Colleges

Shops will continue to trade, and businesses such as manufacturing and construction will continue.

And these new restrictions will last for 16 days. They are intended to be short, sharp action to arrest a worrying increase in infection.

However although they are temporary, they are needed.

Without them, there is a risk the virus will be out of control by the end of this month.

But with them, we hope to slow its spread. That will help to keep schools and businesses open over the winter. And it will save lives.

So please follow these new rules. And continue to take the other basic steps that will protect you and each other.

Do not visit other people’s homes.

Work from home if you can.

Download the Protect Scotland app, if you can.

And remember FACTS.

Face coverings; avoid crowded places; clean hands and hard surfaces; 2 metre distancing; and self isolate, and book a test if you have symptoms.

Sticking to all of this isn’t easy, after seven long months. But it is essential. It’s the best way to look out for each other, and now more than ever, we all need that spirit of love and solidarity that has served us so well.

And hard through it is to believe it right now, all the hard sacrifices we are making will hasten the brighter days that do lie ahead.

So, let’s all stick with it – and above all, let’s stick together.

Thank you, again, for all you are doing.

First Minister national address on Coronavirus measures

First Minister media address to Scotland on 22 September 2020 on new measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland.

This speech is from the website and was broadcast live on tv and online in Scotland.

“The last six months have been unprecedented.

They’ve been the hardest many of us have ever lived through

But through our collective efforts across Scotland, we did beat Covid back.

As a result – although too much heartbreak has been endured and too many families are grieving – many lives were also saved.

But as we enter winter, and with many lockdown restrictions now thankfully lifted, the challenge is once again getting harder.

Albeit from the very low level we achieved in the summer, cases are rising again.

In the last three weeks, they have almost trebled.

And as the virus spreads, we see more people being admitted to hospital again and sadly dying.

So we are once again at a tipping point

We must act to get Covid back under control.

And protect the things that matter most to us.

In a global pandemic of a virus with as yet no vaccine, we simply can’t have 100% normality. No country can.

So we must choose our priorities.

Our priorities are saving lives and protecting health.

Keeping schools open.

Restarting NHS services.

Ensuring care homes are safe.

And protecting jobs and livelihoods.

It is to safeguard these priorities that I must ask all of you again to make sacrifices.

Sacrifices for our national well-being.

They are not easy but please believe me when I say they are essential.

We have decided that from Friday there will be a national curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants. They will have to close by 10pm – to reduce the time people spend there.

And from tomorrow, we are all being asked not to visit each other’s homes – because we know that is often how the virus spreads most easily from one household to another.

There are exceptions – for care of the vulnerable, extended households, childcare and tradespeople.

But generally, by staying out of other people’s houses for now, we give ourselves the best chance of bringing Covid back under control.

We can still meet outdoors with one other household in groups of up to 6 people

And because we know this is especially difficult for children and young people we’ve tried to build in more flexibility for you.

If you are younger than 12, there are no limits on playing with your friends outdoors.

And if you are between 12 and 17 you can meet your friends outdoors in groups of 6 – but you don’t all have to be from just two households.

Now, for everyone – adults and children – I know that today must feel like a step backwards.

But please know that thanks to all your efforts over the last six months, we are in a much stronger position than in the spring.

Cases are rising but less rapidly than back then.

Our Test & Protect system is working well – tracing contacts and breaking chains of transmission.

We have much more information on how and where the virus spreads.

And we know what we need to do to protect ourselves and others.

And all of us have a part to play.

So I am asking everyone – please, follow the new rules. They will make a difference.

If you can and haven’t already, please also go to and download the Protect Scotland app – so more people who might be at risk of the virus can be traced quickly and asked to self-isolate.

And remember FACTS – face coverings, avoid crowded areas; clean your hands and surfaces; keep two metre distancing; and self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms.

Finally, I know that all of this has been incredibly tough – and six months on it only gets tougher.

But never forget that humanity has come through even bigger challenges than this one.

And though it doesn’t feel like it now, this virus will pass.

It won’t last forever and one day, hopefully soon, we will be looking back on it, not living through it.

So though we are all struggling with this – and believe me, we are all struggling – let’s pull together.

Let’s keep going, try to keep smiling, keep hoping and keep looking out for each other.

Be strong, be kind and let’s continue to act out of love and solidarity.

I will never find the words to thank all of you enough for the enormous sacrifices you have made so far.

And I am sorry to be asking for more.

But a belief I hold on to – and one I am asking you to keep faith with in those moments when it all feels too hard – is this.

If we stick with it – and, above all, if we stick together – we will get through it.”



RELATED STORY: Nicola Sturgeon statement on additional COVID restrictions 22/0920 Scot Parliament












Nicola Sturgeon statement on additional COVID restrictions

Below is Nicola Sturgeon’s full statement to the Scottish Parliament on the implementation of additional COVID restrictions in Scotland.

Presiding Officer,

I will update the chamber on additional restrictions that the Scottish Government believes are necessary to get Covid back under control as we enter winter.

I will also set out why these measures are essential, and the principles and priorities that have guided our decisions.

First, though, I will provide a summary of today’s statistics.

Since yesterday, an additional 383 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed.

That represents 7.6% of the people newly tested, and takes the total number of cases to 25,009.

A total of 73 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed Covid-19, which is the same as yesterday.

And 10 people are in intensive care which is 2 more than yesterday.

I am also sorry to report that in the past 24 hours, one further death has been registered of a patient who had tested positive for the virus.

The total number of deaths in Scotland under that measurement is therefore now 2,506.

That reminds us of the impact of Covid. These deaths are not just statistics – they are of real people whose loss is a source of heartbreak.

My condolences go to everyone who has lost a loved one to this illness.

Today’s figures reflect the course the virus has taken in recent weeks.

In mid July, we were recording an average of 9 new cases a day.

Around 4 weeks later, that had risen to an average of 52 cases a day.

Three weeks after that, it was 102.

Today it is 285.

We have also seen an increase in the percentage of tests coming back positive. In late August, that percentage was consistently below 1%.

Today it is over 7%.

The R number is also above 1 again, possibly as high as 1.4.

Now it is worth stressing that this growth in cases – because of the collective sacrifices we all made to drive infection levels down over the summer – is from a low base.

It is also, at this stage, far less rapid than in March.

But it is rising, faster than we can be comfortable with. We cannot let it continue unchecked.

And while in recent weeks, the biggest number of new cases has been in people under the age of 40, we now see an increase amongst the older population too.

And unsurprisingly, in light of that, hospital and intensive care admissions and also deaths are starting to rise too.

All of this underlines what, for me, is a key point,

We cannot be complacent about Covid.

It kills too many old and vulnerable people. And for younger, healthier people, while the risks of dying from it are much lower – though not non-existent – it can still result in long term, serious health problems.

That’s why action to bring it back under control is necessary – and to bring the R number down again, the action we take now must go beyond the step we announced almost two weeks ago to restrict indoor and outdoor gatherings to 6 people from 2 households.

Over the weekend and in the course of yesterday the Scottish Government considered a range of options.

On Saturday, I had a discussion with other devolved administrations, and I spoke to the Prime Minister yesterday.

I also took part in this morning’s COBR meeting.

At that meeting, all four governments committed to suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level and keeping it there.

Following on from that meeting, measures to control the virus were agreed at Cabinet.

I can confirm that we will introduce measures on hospitality similar to those outlined for England by the Prime Minister a short while ago – and thereby align as far as possible with the rest of the U.K.

However, the advice given to the Cabinet by the Chief Medical Officer and the National Clinical Director is that this on its own will not be sufficient to bring the R number down.

They stress that we must act, not just quickly and decisively, but also on a scale significant enough to have an impact on the spread of the virus.

And they advise that we must take account of the fact that household interaction is a key driver of transmission.

To that end, we intend – as Northern Ireland did yesterday – to also introduce nationwide additional restrictions on household gatherings, similar to those already in place in the West of Scotland.

I will say more about these measures shortly. Full details will also be published on the Scottish Government’s website.

But first let me be clear about the priorities that have guided our decisions.

And it is essential that we think in terms of priorities. Faced with a global pandemic of an infectious and dangerous virus, it is not possible to do everything and to live our lives completely normally.

No country is able to do that just now.

So instead we have to decide what matters most and make trade-offs elsewhere to make those things possible.

Of course, the most important priority is saving lives and protecting health.

But there are other priorities too.

Firstly, we are determined to keep schools open and young people in education. That is vital to the health, wellbeing and future prospects of every young person in the country.

Second, we must restart as many previously paused NHS services as possible, so that more people can get the non COVID treatment they need. Our NHS must be equipped this winter to care for those who have COVID – and it will be.

But it must be there for people with heart disease, cancer and other illnesses too.

And, third, we must protect people’s jobs and livelihoods – that means keeping businesses open and trading as normally as is feasible.

To achieve all of that, we must stop the virus from spiralling out of control and we can only do that if we accept restrictions in other aspects of our lives.

The more positive news is that because we did drive the virus down to low levels over the summer, and because we now have Test & Protect in place and functioning well, the restrictions can be more targeted than earlier in the year.

The measures I am announcing today are tough – I will not pretend otherwise – but they do not represent a full scale lockdown of the kind imposed in March.

Indeed, today’s measures are an attempt to avoid another lockdown.

I also want to address talk in recent days about restrictions being needed for six months or more.

It is certainly the case, until scientific developments such as a vaccine change the game in the battle against COVID, it will have an impact on our lives.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the new restrictions I am announcing today will be in place for six months.

By acting early and substantially, our hope is that these new measures will be in place for a shorter period than would be the case if we waited longer to act.

In the first instance, we will review them in 3 weeks – although given the nature of this virus, they may be needed for longer than that.

So let me set out the package of measures we hope can bring Covid back under control.

I will focus first on those areas where we intend to reinforce existing guidance and provide better support for compliance.

Firstly, everyone who can work from home, should work from home.

That has been the Scottish Government advice throughout, but we are reinforcing it today.

To employers, if you have encouraged workers back to the office who could be working from home, please rethink that.

We know not everyone wants to work from home – and it does have an impact on our town and city centres – but with the virus on the rise again, home working limits the numbers of people on public transport and gathering together for lengthy periods indoors. That is why it is important.

We want employers to comply with this advice voluntarily as the vast majority do. But if necessary we will put a legal duty on businesses to allow home working where possible.

Second, we intend in the coming days, through media and social media, to reinforce the central importance of the FACTS advice – face coverings, avoiding crowded places, cleaning hands and hard surfaces, keeping two metre distance and self isolating and booking a test if you have symptoms.

At the start of the pandemic, compliance with basic hygiene measures was very strong.

That makes a difference – and it is just as important now as it was then.

So I am asking everyone to make a conscious and renewed effort to comply with all of this advice.

And third – and related to the last point – we will introduce a package of support for people who are asked to self isolate.

Self isolation of people with symptoms awaiting a test, people who test positive and household and other close contacts of such people is essential to breaking the chains of transmission.

But we know self isolation is hard. It asks a lot of people and, for some, the financial implications make it even more difficult.

So we intend, firstly, to raise awareness of the importance of self isolation and what it entails. Ensuring that people fully understand why we are asking them to do difficult things is the first step to ensuring compliance.

Next, we are working with local authorities to ensure that when someone is asked by Test & Protect to self isolate, they will be contacted proactively and offered essential practical support – for example help with delivery of food and other essentials.

And, most importantly, we will introduce financial support of £500 for those on low incomes.

More detail of this scheme will be published shortly.

As I said yesterday, we will keep issues of enforcement for non compliance with self isolation under review.

However, our judgment at this stage – particularly given the spirit of solidarity that is so essential in our fight against this virus – is that supporting people to do the right thing is more effective than threatening harsh punishment if they can’t.

Presiding Officer,

Let me now turn to the new restrictions that are necessary to bring the virus back under control.

First, as I indicated earlier, we will introduce a strict nationwide curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants.

From Friday, pubs, bars and restaurants will be required to close at 10pm.

Now, people sometimes ask me why we don’t just close pubs again altogether – and I can understand that.

The answer – to be frank – is that we are seeking to find a balance between action to suppress the virus and the protection of people’s jobs and livelihoods.

If the Scottish Government had greater powers to borrow money, or the ability to extend the Job Retention Scheme, for example, it is possible that we would reach a different balance of judgment on some of these issues.

But we don’t.

So this decision today means we can reduce the amount of time people are able to spend in licensed premises, thereby curtailing the spread of the virus, while still allowing businesses to trade and provide jobs.

This is the best balance for now.

However, I want to be clear with the hospitality trade about this.

Notwithstanding the economic implications, further restrictions, including possible closure, will be unavoidable – locally or nationally – if the rules within pubs and restaurants on hygiene, face coverings, table service, maximum numbers in groups, and the distance between them are not fully complied with.

I want to thank those businesses that are making huge efforts to ensure compliance.

However, to ensure this is the case for all, we will be providing resources for additional Environmental Health Officers and asking local authorities to significantly step up inspection and enforcement.

Let me turn now to the most difficult part of today’s announcement – further restrictions on household gatherings.

We know from the data available to us through Test & Protect that a high proportion of new cases come from social interactions between different households in our homes.

We also know from Test & Protect – and from our own experiences – that it is much more difficult to maintain physical distance – and have, for example, good ventilation – inside our own homes.

We also know that when the virus infects one person in a household it is highly likely to affect others in the same household. It will also infect people visiting that household, who will in turn take it back to their households.

Therefore, difficult though it is, any serious effort to reduce the R number below 1 must take account of this key driver of transmission and seek to break it.

So after careful consideration, we have decided that from tomorrow, to be reviewed after three weeks, and with exceptions that I will come on to, visiting other households will not be permitted.

To be clear, this extends the restriction that has been in place across the West of Scotland for the last three weeks to all of Scotland. Regulations giving effect to this change will come into force on Friday, but I am asking people to comply from tomorrow.

One of the reasons we have decided to do this is that our early data suggests this restriction is starting to slow the increase of cases in the West of Scotland.

So if we extend it nationwide now, in an early and preventative way, we hope it will help to bring the R number down and the virus back under control.

There will be exceptions for those living alone, or alone with children, who form extended households; for couples in non-cohabiting relationships; for the provision of informal childcare by, for example, grandparents; and for tradespeople.

Those new restrictions apply to people’s homes – in other words, to private indoor spaces.

Rules for meeting other people in public indoor spaces that are subject to strict regulation and guidance, remain the same – you can meet with one other household only and in groups of no more than 6 people.

As I said earlier, we will be working with local authorities to strengthen inspection and enforcement in indoor public places and enforcement action, including closure if necessary, will be taken against shops, pubs, restaurants or other premises that do not ensure compliance.

You can also continue to meet with one other household in groups of up to 6 outdoors, including in private gardens.

Outdoors, though, we intend to exempt children under 12 – both from the limit of 6 and the limit of two households. There will be no limits on the ability of children under 12 to play together outdoors.

And young people aged 12 to 18 will be exempt from the two household limit – they will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 6, though we will need to monitor this carefully.

And let me say to teenagers in particular – I know how miserable this is for you and you have been so patient. We are trying to give you as much flexibility as we can. In return, please work with us and do your best to stick to the rules, for everyone’s sake.

Presiding Officer,

The last new restriction I want to cover today relates to travelling by car.

We know, again from Test & Protect data, that sharing car journeys presents a significant risk of transmission.

We are therefore advising against car sharing with people outside your own household.

Finally, it is also important that I indicate today, in light of the current situation, that the routemap changes with an indicative date of 5 October are unlikely to go ahead on that timescale.

Presiding Officer,

I want now to touch briefly on an issue that has been the subject of media speculation in recent days – namely the possibility of a so called circuit breaker, timed to coincide with the October school break, and during which people would be given much more comprehensive advice to stay at home.

The Scottish Government has not made any decision at this stage to implement such a policy – however, we are actively keeping it under review.

What I would say to people now is this. Please think of the October break as an opportunity to further limit social interaction.

And, given that this is a global pandemic, please do not book travel overseas for the October break if it is not essential.

Finally, let me say a few words to people who were shielding earlier in the year. I know you will be feeling particularly anxious.

However the best way to keep you safe is by reducing the spread of the virus in our communities – which is what today’s measures are all about.

The steps I have outlined today will help keep you safe, so please follow the guidance for the general population with great care.

And if you haven’t signed up for our text alert service, please do so.

Fundamentally, I want to assure you that your safety is uppermost in our minds.

But we do not believe that asking you to return to shielding is the best way to secure it, given the impact it would have on your mental and physical health. In our view, all of us acting together to reduce the spread of the virus is a better way to keep you safe.

Presiding Officer,

These are the changes we are making now. I can’t rule out the need to make more – nationally or locally – in the weeks to come.

Indeed, we intend to publish soon an overall strategic approach to escalation in areas with particularly high rates of transmission.

However, I am acutely aware that the restrictions I have announced today will not be welcome.

But in our judgment they are absolutely essential.

Inevitably, some will think they go too far and others that they don’t go far enough.

But we have tried to get the balance right – and to act urgently and in a substantial and preventative way now to try to get the situation under control quickly.

We judge that this will give us the best chance of avoiding tougher or longer lasting measures later.

But I know that doesn’t make this any easier.

Many people, me included, will find not being able to have family and friends in our own homes really difficult – especially as the weather gets colder.

But today’s measures – although tough – are not a lockdown. They are carefully targeted at key sources of transmission. And we believe they can make a significant difference, while keeping our schools, public services and as many businesses as possible open.

However the success of these measures depends on all of us.

The decisions that we all make as individuals in the weeks ahead, will determine whether they work, and how quickly they can be lifted.

That fact isn’t just a reminder of the responsibilities we all owe to each other – it is also a reminder that we are not powerless against this virus.

None of us can guarantee that we won’t get Covid, or pass it on. But we can all make choices which significantly reduce our own risk, and help to keep our communities safer.

So please, make those choices. Stick with this.

Please don’t meet people in their homes or your home – because that is where the virus often spreads.

Limit how often you meet up with people in public places – and abide by the rules in force there.

Work from home if you can.

Follow the advice on self isolation if you have symptoms, test positive, or are a contact of someone who has the virus.

Download the Protect Scotland app.

And when you do meet other people, remember FACTS at all times.

Face coverings in enclosed spaces.

Avoid crowded places.

Clean your hands and hard surfaces.

Keep 2 metre distance from other households.

And self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

Keeping to all these rules isn’t easy – but they remain the best way for all of us to protect ourselves, each other, the NHS and ultimately save lives.

Presiding Officer,

All of this is incredibly tough – and six months on it only gets tougher.

But we should never forget that humanity has come through even bigger challenges than this – and it did so without the benefits of modern technology that allow us to stay connected while physically apart.

And though it doesn’t feel like this now, this pandemic will pass.

It won’t last forever and one day, hopefully soon, we will be looking back on it, not living through it.

So though we are all struggling with this – and believe me, we all are – let’s pull together.

Let’s keep going, try to keep smiling, keep hoping and keep looking out for each other.

Be strong, be kind and let’s continue to act out of love and solidarity.

I will never be able to thank all of you enough for the sacrifices you have made so far.

And I am sorry to have to ask for more.

But if we stick with it – and stick together – I do know we will get through this.

Finance Ministers’ “deep concern” over UK Internal Market Bill

Spending proposals would “reverse devolution”. (17 Sept 2020)

Finance Ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have met to discuss a range of fiscal matters and voiced their collective concerns about the financial implications the UK Internal Market Bill will have on devolved governments.

Kate Forbes, Rebecca Evans and Conor Murphy expressed their joint concerns on the spending powers set out in the Bill which override the existing devolution settlement.

The powers enable the UK Government to undertake spending in devolved areas, including for replacement of EU funding, without any engagement with the devolved nations.

Finance Ministers also voiced concerns about what this could mean for future consequential funding arrangements.

Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes said:

“It is entirely unacceptable that – with no prior notice – the UK Government has written provisions into the Bill that presume Whitehall control over the delivery of replacements for the EU funding programme in Scotland – a programme that Scottish Ministers have delivered successfully for decades.

“This Bill would also allow the UK Government to dictate how money is spent in devolved areas without the consent of Scottish Ministers. It puts at risk funding for a whole host of capital programmes – schools, hospitals and infrastructure. It reverses the devolution process and we will oppose any attempt to bypass the Scottish Parliament and Government, which are elected by the people of Scotland.

“Not only is it in contravention of the devolution settlement, but it has the potential to create confusion, duplication and unnecessary additional bureaucracy at a time when economic recovery is paramount.”

Welsh Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:

“I am deeply concerned that the Bill gives UK Ministers, for the first time since devolution, powers to fund activity in areas which are clearly devolved to Wales.

“In Wales funding decisions are taken in partnership with local communities, to ensure that they reflect the needs of the people in Wales. The powers set out in the Bill completely undermine devolution and will see decisions currently taken in Wales, clawed back by the UK Government.”

Finance Minister for Northern Ireland, Conor Murphy said:

“The Internal Market Bill will give the British Government wide ranging powers to make funding decisions in devolved areas.

“This is greatly concerning and could have huge implications for the Good Friday Agreement. The British Government should not interfere in funding matters which are currently the responsibility of the Devolved Administrations.

“It is also imperative that they provide details on the scope of the Shared Prosperity Fund. This will be a vital source of replacement funding for devolved areas and the lack of meaningful engagement to date is extremely disappointing.”