Scotland Covid-19, Democracy, devolution and governance

Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis; immediate implications for local government


The question of how to transition out of lockdown has been a vital issue for governments across the world. Last week, Scottish Government released its four-phase strategy for how restrictions will be relaxed in the country going forward, and this week launched the plan for moving into Phase 1 of that strategy. This blog will outline Scotland’s route map and identify immediate points of relevance for local government before highlighting recent LGIU coverage of the transitions out of lockdown across the UK and the world.

Scotland’s Route Map

On the 21st of May, Scottish Government published the first indication of how Scotland will transition out of lockdown. This has come in the form of a four-phase process that is likely to start from the 28th of May. Each phase will be reviewed after three weeks and the First Minister has been quick to acknowledge that restrictions may be re-instated if the number of cases rises significantly. More detailed guidance is expected in the next few days.

Phase 1: Virus not yet contained but cases are falling.

The plan for this phase can be read here and Nicola Sturgeon FM said today the plan is based on “family, friendship and love”. The key message remains stay at home and advice suggests travel distances of around 5 miles are acceptable.

In summary, Individuals are able to meet up socially with another household outdoors while maintaining social distancing, suggesting one household per day to a maximum of 8 people. Sunbathing is allowed, along with some local outdoor activities like golf, hiking and fishing. Garden centres and drive-through takeaways can reopen, some outdoor work can resume, and child-minding services can begin and fully outdoor nursery provision. The construction industry can start site preparation and plan to restart. Remote working will remain the default for those who can.

The testing, tracing and isolate programme also starts today and the full plan is here. Known in Scotland as the “test and protect” programme this has been piloted in 3 health boards and as of today has a capacity for 15,000 tests per day. 700 contact tracers are in place, with that capacity to be expanded in the coming weeks.

Phase 2: Virus controlled.
People will be able to meet in larger groups outdoors and meet another household indoors. Construction, factories, warehouses, laboratories and small shops can resume work. Playgrounds and sports courts can reopen, and professional sport can begin again.

Phase 3: Virus suppressed.
More than one household will be able to meet indoors. Non-essential offices would reopen, along with gyms, museums, libraries, cinemas, larger shops, pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and dentists. Live events could take place with restricted numbers and physical distancing restrictions. Schools should reopen from 11th of August.

Phase 4: Virus no longer a significant threat.
University and college campuses can reopen in full, mass gatherings are allowed. All workplaces open and public transport is back at full capacity but subject to most recent social distancing advice. 

Key implications for local government

Local authorities are explicitly mentioned a few times in the route map document, the transition out of lockdown will have significant implications for all councils across the country. Key points to consider include:

Schools are set to re-open on the 11th of August with teachers and staff able to return from next week. There will also be an increased number of children will be able to access critical childcare provision including the re-opening of child-minding services and fully outdoor nursery provision.

Recycling centres
The Government plans to support reopening of recycling centres from the 1st of June, subject to physical distancing measures. Further guidance will be issued this week with Councils across the country drawing up plans for how to reopen centres and to ensure the safety of staff and users.

Sport and leisure
Local outdoor leisure activities such as golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming and angling will be allowed which will mean an increased number of people travelling to access those sports and a reduced of accessible green spaces, particularly in cities.  Detailed guidance to follow.

Support services
Some key support services will begin again such as face to-face Children’s Hearings, greater direct contact for social work and support services with at-risk groups and families, and access to respite/day care to support unpaid carers and for families with a disabled family members. NHS services covering primary, and community services including mental health will also restart.

Working in partnership

Scottish Government explicitly recognises the role of local governments in working with stakeholders on the ground to support communities and enable services to run including their role in working with partners to increase the numbers of children attending critical childcare provision and ensuring accommodation continues to be available to vulnerable people. Local governments are also acknowledged as important partners to include in wider national government decision making.

More broadly, the Government has set out the need to work in partnership with the people in Scotland, reiterating the WHOs strategy for transition that emphasises that “communities have a voice, are informed, engaged and participatory in the transition”.

LGIU coverage of the transition out of lockdown

Scotland and Covid-19: a framework for decision-making when considering transitioning out of lockdown

Covid-19: Easing the lockdown in France

Covid-19: What next for the new normal?

Local government and Covid-19: exit strategies – the timing, the issues

Covid-19: What we can learn from the easing of lockdown across Europe

Covid-19: The recovery plan – summary, issues and questions


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