Covid-19 Scottish Government updates and press releases

You will find the most up to date information produced by the Scottish Government here – it will be refreshed daily.

https://www.gov.scot/publications/ddtf-status-update-from-chair-19-march-2020/

Scottish Government updates and press releases

Quarantine rule ends for travellers arriving from lower risk countries and territories

Public health measure lifted for some overseas travellers arriving in Scotland

08/07/20

Passengers arriving in Scotland from 57 overseas destinations that have similar or lower levels of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection than Scotland will no longer need to quarantine. Travellers from the 14 UK overseas territories will also be exempt.

This public health measure will be lifted on Friday (10 July) for those arriving from countries and territories where the risk of importing COVID-19 is sufficiently low – with 26 European nations among them, including Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Malta.

Passengers arriving from these countries will still be required to complete the online passenger locator form prior to travel and to supply contact details, travel details and the address of the final destination where they will be staying. Travellers arriving into Scotland via an English port or airport, or direct to the country, will still need to quarantine if they have been in a country which is not on the exemption list.

A further review will be conducted on the 20 July.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“Having carefully considered the public health impact of proposed exemptions we will lift the quarantine requirements from a limited number of countries where the risk of importing COVID-19 is sufficiently low. These exemptions will take effect on Friday, at the same time as those being introduced for travel into England and Wales.

“As we have lowered the level of the virus in Scotland, we must manage the risk of more cases coming into the country, particularly from areas where infections are more prevalent than here.  That makes decisions about lifting quarantine requirements particularly difficult.

“Anyone travelling should follow public health advice at all times including wearing face coverings, avoiding crowded places, washing hands and surfaces, staying two metres apart and self-isolating if you get symptoms and immediately registering for a test.”

Background

Passengers arriving in Scotland will no longer need to quarantine provided they have not been in a non exempted country in the previous 14 days.

Public health rules for international travel are an important part of Scotland’s wider response to the COVID-19 pandemic – to limit the introduction of new chains of transmission of the virus as the country’s own infection rates are/have been falling.

The measures were initially introduced across the UK and applied to travellers arriving from all countries outwith the Common Travel Area (CTA)

Exempting additional countries, including Spain and Serbia, will be considered at three weekly review points with the next review being 20 July.

Data received from the UK Government indicates that the prevalence of the virus in Spain is 0.33% which means 330 people per 100,000 have the virus. In Scotland that figure is 28 people per 100,000.

Those travelling abroad should check in advance if there are any requirements to quarantine on arrival at their destination.

The list of overseas destinations where the self-isolation requirements for those arriving in Scotland will be lifted on Friday are:

Andorra; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Australia; Austria; The Bahamas; Barbados; Belgium; Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba; Croatia; Curaçao; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Dominica; Faroe Islands; Fiji; Finland; France; French Polynesia; Germany; Greece; Greenland; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Hong Kong; Hungary ; Iceland; Italy; Jamaica; Japan; Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg; Macau; Malta; Mauritius; Monaco; The Netherlands ; New Caledonia; New Zealand; Norway; Poland ; Réunion; San Marino ;Seychelles; St Barthélemy; St Kitts & Nevis; St Lucia; St Pierre and Miquelon; South Korea; Switzerland; Taiwan; Trinidad & Tobago; Turkey; Vatican City State and Vietnam.

The fourteen UK overseas territories also on the list of exemptions are: Akrotiri and Dhekelia; Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Ireland is already exempt as part of the Common Travel Area, as are the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

National partnership for culture

New group set up to deliver Culture Strategy

A new group formed to deliver Scotland’s culture strategy is to meet for the first time.

The National Partnership for Culture (NPC) is made up of 14 experts from across Scotland’s culture sector. The group will advise on challenges facing the culture sector from coronavirus (COVID-19) and will build on the recommendations recently set out to the First Minister by the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery.

The group is chaired by Joanna Baker CBE, a former Edinburgh International Festival Managing Director, who has more than 30 years experience of Scotland’s cultural scene.

The main objectives of the Partnership will be to:

  • consider and advise how to promote the culture sector’s recovery in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst speaking out for the many ways culture can help to support society post-pandemic
  • provide advice and guidance on key strategic issues affecting culture in Scotland
  • champion A Culture Strategy for Scotland and make recommendations on delivering the Strategy’s vision, ambitions and aims
  • establish a Measuring Change Group to advise the Partnership on appropriate measures, data and research for decision-making on culture matters

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“Culture is central to who we are as a nation, and while the remit of the National Partnership for Culture goes beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, it will play an integral part in our recovery.

“The recent report from the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery emphasised the importance of culture in delivering the action Scotland needs to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

“I look forward to the National Partnership for Culture building on that work by providing Ministers with strategic advice on harnessing the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship of our cultural sector to help create an enabled, inclusive society.”

Ms Baker said:

“Scotland’s cultural sector has always punched well above its weight in its contribution to the health, wealth and wellbeing of the people of Scotland. I look forward to working alongside a group of very talented colleagues as we work to advise Government on promoting the recovery of the culture sector and the many ways in which culture can help to support society through the aftermath of the pandemic and into the future.”

Background

Culture Strategy for Scotland is published on the Scottish Government website.

The document draws on themes raised by people across Scotland who took part in our national culture conversation which began in 2017 and led to a public consultation in 2018.

The partnership is independently chaired and its membership and participation aim to reflect Scotland’s many different cultures, languages and communities. It will play a key role in helping unlock opportunities by bringing together partners from across the culture sector; artists, creative producers, policy makers and academics, along with other sectors to identify opportunities for collaboration and partnership working.

More information on membership of the National Partnership for Culture

The report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery.

£Additional funding for councils

257.6 million to help tackle COVID-19 approved by Parliament

(24/06/20)

Almost £258 million of additional funding for vital local services, such as food provision for those in need, education and social care, has been approved by the Scottish Parliament.

The provision of a further £72 million is being agreed with COSLA and will be subject to Parliamentary approval in due course. This will bring the total additional funding provided to help Scotland’s local authorities combat coronavirus (COVID-19) to almost £330 million.

This extra funding is on top of the local government finance settlement of £11.4 billion, which already provided an increase of £589.4 million (5.8%) compared to the previous year.

To prevent local authorities experiencing cash flow problems the Scottish Government is providing £455 million in weekly advanced payments to councils until Parliamentary approval is secured. Councils received an additional £150 million in May, £255 million in June, and will receive £50 million in July.

Public Finance Minister Ben Macpherson said:

“We have taken exceptional measures in every area of government as we deal with the challenges of COVID-19 – and that is particularly clear in our support for local services. To date, Scotland’s councils have received £405 million in advanced payments this financial year, and by the end of July this will have risen to £455 million.

“The Scottish Government has also relaxed current guidance on some of the education grants to allow additional resource to be diverted to the COVID-19 response.

“We will continue to work with COSLA and local authorities, as well as pressing the UK Government for urgent additional funding and flexibility for our partners in local government.”

The Scottish Parliament approved the distribution and payment of an additional £257.6 million of additional COVID-19 funding on 23 June.

The additional funding includes:

  • £155 million of UK Government consequentials;
  • £50 million Hardship Funding;
  • £22 million Scottish Welfare Fund top up;
  • £15 million Food Fund for Free School Meals;
  • £15 million for other aspects of the Food Fund; and
  • £0.6 million to enable death registration services to work weekends and evenings.

Subject to agreement of the distribution, Local Government will also benefit from the allocations of:

  • £23 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund top up;
  • £0.4 million for Community Justice Co-ordinators;
  • £27.6 million to extend Free School Meals over the summer holidays and provide additional support for those at risk to the end of September; and
  • A share of the £50 million available for a Council Tax Reduction Scheme and Social Security Benefits top up that is currently being discussed with COSLA.

Re-starting tourism safely

New workplace guidance published

(22/06/20)

Guidance to support Scotland’s tourism and hospitality sector to reopen safely has been published.

The industry has been asked to prepare for reopening on 15 July, if sufficient progress is made to move to phase 3 of the route-map.

It sets out the key public health measures that will need to be taken to allow safe reopening, including:

  • Establishing physical distancing taking account of organisational capacity, queue management, signage and markings
  • Enhanced hand hygiene measures and cleaning practice
  • Advice on workforce planning, including training and equality issues
  • Guidance for customers to ensure they know how to plan ahead and engage safely with the tourism and hospitality sector

The guidance has been developed in partnership with industry, unions and public health bodies.

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“We want a strong tourism and hospitality sector to help drive Scotland’s economic recovery and future prosperity.

“Industry is telling us what it needs and we are listening. Last week we provided clarity on a potential reopening date and announced a specialist task force to look at the recovery process we face. Now we have published guidance to help get the sector up and running again safely. We have also pushed the UK Government for more support, including a VAT reduction and an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

“The coming months will be extremely challenging but the Scottish Government is doing everything in its power to ensure this vital sector bounces back.”

Visit Scotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead said:

“We are delighted to start seeing real clarity for the tourism industry – both through the proposed date and these new guidelines which we will help to promote across Scotland.  It is understandable that people will be anxious about travelling and crucial that they are reassured that the tourism industry is doing everything it can to restart the holiday season as safely as possible. Everyone is excited about being able to get tourism up and running again and these guidelines will give the industry the insight they need to reopen.”

Background

 Coronavirus (COVID-19): tourism and hospitality sector guidance

 Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for retail, tourism and hospitality customers

The guidance is designed for use by the whole sector, including:

  • all accommodation providers (hotels, B&Bs, self-catering, caravan/holiday parks etc. )
  • visitor attractions
  • marine and adventure tourism
  • other activity or experience tourism operations/centres
  • tour operators
  • pubs and restaurants
  • retail aspects of tourism
  • natural spaces insofar as they relate to tourism, such as the National Parks

An update from the Chief Medical Officers on the alert level in the UK

Statement from the UK Chief Medical Officers on the alert level for COVID-19

(19/06/20)

“The Joint Biosecurity Centre has recommended that the COVID-19 alert level should move from Level 4 (COVID-19 is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially) to Level 3 (COVID-19 is in general circulation).

“The CMOs for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have reviewed the evidence and agree with this recommendation to move to Level 3 across the UK.

“There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues. It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.

“We have made progress against the virus thanks to the efforts of the public and we need the public to continue to follow the guidelines carefully to ensure this progress continues.”

Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty

Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Gregor Smith

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Chris Jones

 

Gradual introduction of Phase 2

Progress continues but caution urged to suppress COVID-19

(18/06/20)

Further changes to lockdown restrictions in Scotland have been announced (Thursday, 18 June) by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Those shielding are now able to go outdoors for exercise from today. From tomorrow (Friday, 19 June) those shielding can take part in non-contact outdoor activities and can meet one other household, in groups of no more than eight outdoors. Physical distancing and strict hygiene measures must still be followed, even if you live with those people.

From tomorrow anyone living alone or only with children under 18 can form an ‘extended household group’ with one other household. This does not apply to households with people who are shielding. Extended household groups can meet indoors with overnight stays permitted and without physical distancing, but any other household meetings must remain strictly outdoors and at a two metre distance. Members of an extended household group should not form a similar arrangement with any other household.

From Monday, 29 June some indoor workplaces can re-open, including factories, labs and warehouses, subject to strict physical distancing, hygiene and health and safety guidance, but non-essential offices and call centres should remain closed. All retail premises with outdoor entrances and exits can also re-open from 29 June. Ahead of that date local authorities and retailers are urged to plan for the responsible use of public space, such as removing unnecessary street furniture, designing systems to manage queuing and pedestrian thoroughfares, and implementing adequate measures to support physical distancing.

It remains government advice to wear a face covering in enclosed areas where physical distancing is difficult, such as shops, and from Monday, 22 June, it will become mandatory to wear a face covering on all public transport.

A date for the re-opening of outdoor hospitality cannot be safely set at this stage. A further update will be provided on 2 July. Further advice from the Scientific Advisory Group has been commissioned based on emerging evidence suggesting communal spaces such as hospitality can present a higher risk of transmission.

Physical distancing guidance remains to stay two metres apart from people outside your household. Advice has also been commissioned on circumstances and settings, including schools and transport, where with additional mitigation it may be possible to balance the risk of a shorter distance.

Announcing the measures, the First Minister said:

“Thank you for the personal sacrifices you’re making to tackle this pandemic. You’ve demonstrated remarkable dedication to our national wellbeing – that effort should never be underestimated, and my thanks can never be overstated.

“Because of your actions, we can now – gradually and carefully – change some restrictions.

“In deciding when to implement each measure in our staged approach, we have to think about how a decision in one area affects life in other areas. Our test and protect system is important to our gradual return to living more freely while suppressing the virus, and early indications suggest it’s already working well.

“I know for those shielding, the requirement to stay indoors at all times, without meeting up with anyone, has been incredibly tough. I hope that this change to our advice can provide a real improvement to your quality of life, without significantly increasing the risks you face.

“Our extended household groups will allow a grandparent who lives on their own to form a group with another household in their family, a single parent and their children to join with another household for support, and it will allow a non-cohabiting couple, where at least one of them lives alone, to be reunited. It will, I hope, help to ease some of the isolation which is one of the cruellest consequences of tackling this virus.

“I appreciate today’s announcement will be hard for the hospitality industry but I want to give an assurance that we will continue to support preparations for re-opening.

“Ultimately, this is a social bargain. The prize for going a bit more carefully now is a recovery that is much more sustainable and will, I hope, allow more normality to be restored to our everyday lives while suppressing the virus.”

Route map Phase 2 changes

From Friday 19 June:
• Those advised to shield will be able to take part in non-contact activities such as golf, angling, kayaking, and meet members of another household outdoors, up to a suggested maximum of eight in the group. Most importantly in both instances, strict physical distancing of two meters must be followed at all times, and they should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds when they return home
• A household not shielding can meet two other households, outside, up to a suggested maximum of eight people in the group

• Those visiting another household in a private garden will be permitted to use the household toilet, with increased hygiene measures urged. This does not include a household of someone who is shielding
• Single person households, including single parents households with children under the age of 18, will be able to form an extended household with another
• People should continue to stay in their local area as much as possible and should not travel more than around five miles for leisure or recreation

From Monday 22 June
• Construction sector to implement remaining stages of their own phased return
• Dental practices open to see patients with urgent care needs
• Resumption of professional sport, following public health advice
• Places of worship open for individual prayer and contemplation
• Limited College and University staff return for essential preparations for re-opening in Phase 3
• Mandatory face coverings on public transport (please see Transport Scotland for more detail)
• Accommodation can be provided for workers whose workplaces are open in the relevant phase and who need to stay away from home for work

From Monday 29 June
• Indoor non-office workplaces (including factories, warehouses and labs) can resume once relevant guidance is implemented. This does not include non-essential office, call-centre, culture, leisure and hospitality premises
• Restrictions of house moves relaxed
• Public gardens and zoos can open but should remain limited to local access only in this phase
• Outdoor sports courts reopen
• Playgrounds can reopen
• Registration offices can open for priority tasks
• Marriages and civil partnerships allowed with minimal attendees outside
• Street-access retail can re-open once guidance is implemented. Interiors of shopping malls/centres remain closed for non-essential shops until Phase 3
• Reintroduction of some chronic disease management
• Phased resumption of some screening services
• Phased safe resumption of essential optometry and ophthalmology services
• Outdoor markets can reopen once guidance is implemented

Scaling up throughout Phase 2
• Public transport will increase services. Capacity will remain constrained due to physical distancing requirements – and active travel remains the preferred mode of travel.
• Increase in health care provisions for pent up demand, urgent referrals and triage of routine services
• Planning with COSLA and partners to support and, if needed, review social care and care home services
• Priority referrals to secondary care
• Public services will continue to resume and scale up, including services such as visiting support to Housing First Tenants and the resumption of area-based energy efficiency schemes

Background
Phase 2 route map

Phase 2 guidance

Further guidance will be published before the current shielding period is due to end on 31 July.

Face coverings can include masks, reusable cloth coverings and a whole range of other options including scarves and bandanas – as long as the wearer’s nose and mouth are covered. For more information see Transport Scotland release.

 

Return to work package launched

Initiative will see £230 million invested in a range of projects

(18/06/20)

A £230 million Return to Work package has been unveiled to help stimulate Scotland’s economy following the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The initiative covers construction, low carbon projects, digitisation and business support and will provide a flow of work for businesses and support jobs. It is funded by the reallocation of underspends from schemes interrupted by COVID-19.

New projects featured in the package include:

  • £51 million for business support, including boosting high growth companies
  • £78 million for construction, including £40 million for regeneration projects and £20 million for roads maintenance
  • £66 million to kick-start our green recovery, including £7 million to equip buses for physical distancing and the return to work
  • £35.5 million for digitisation, including justice and education services

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced the package today as she opened a Scottish Parliament debate on the financial implications of COVID-19. She also sought Parliament’s support for the Scottish Government’s call to be granted additional financial powers to manage the crisis.

Ms Forbes said:

“The impact of COVID-19 has been enormous on both businesses and individuals and the Scottish Government has so far spent more than £4 billion tackling its effects.

“We are also taking steps to accelerate our economic recovery and this package ensures that we can make immediate use of money which, because of the pandemic, might otherwise not have been spent this year.

“I do not underestimate the challenges we face but I also see opportunities. It is important we take this chance to reshape our economy in a way that works for everyone and promotes long-term growth, not just quick fixes.

“This £230 million delivers investment across Scotland and will boost the green recovery, speed up digitisation and bolster construction, supporting hundreds of jobs.

“The Return to Work package is part of a process to harness Scotland’s talent and resources and build a modern economy that is robust, fair and sustainable. But it is only a start. Larger programmes will follow and I will continue pressing the UK Government both for new financial powers and greater certainty over funding.

“These additional powers are now absolutely essential – without them Scotland will be planning for recovery with one hand tied behind our back.”

 

Free school meals extended

Additional £27. 6 million to help feed pupils and other key groups

(16/06/20)

Children eligible for free school meals will be among those who continue to be supported over the summer through a package of £27.6 million of additional funding from the Scottish Government.

The funding will ensure councils are able to continue the provision of free school meals during the summer holidays and other food provision to help low income families during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The latest data from local authorities shows that around 175,000 children and young people are currently receiving free school meals – or vouchers or cash payments to buy meals.

The number of children receiving free school food has risen by 53,000 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the impact of the pandemic on family incomes and financial circumstances.

The extra funding will also enable councils to continue to support a range of people who may be facing new or continuing barriers to accessing food including due to reduced income caused if they are asked to self-isolate through contact tracing – until the end of September.

This funding is in addition to the overall package of £30 million allocated to councils in March to provide free school meals and offer food provision to key groups during lockdown.

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills John Swinney said:

“These are challenging times for families and economic uncertainty has added even more pressure on parents already dealing with the stress of this dire COVID-19 crisis.

“We want to ensure families are given the same support through the summer holidays as we provide in term time in recognition of this unprecedented situation. That is why free school meals provision is essential to support families, children and young people who need some extra help at this difficult time.

“This significant additional funding will allow councils to plan for the summer and to continue the existing provision, whether that be offering nutritious free meals for children or through more direct means allowing families to get food for their families. Councils will have the flexibility to ensure they are able to use this additional funding to put in place provision that meets local needs and circumstances.

“£15 million of this funding is being made available to ensure we continue supporting the range of households who have been or may experience difficulty in accessing or affording food during the pandemic. We know that people are under pressure just now as they cope with the impact of COVID-19 and this funding shows we are doing all we can to help them at this difficult time. This funding is additional to the £350 million we have already made available.”

Background

Since 24 March councils have provided the Scottish Government with data on the number of children receiving a free school meal through the provision of vouchers, direct payments, home deliveries and provision in educational or early years settings.

Individuals who are unable to access or afford food and cannot get the help they need from family, friends or neighbours are encouraged to call the national assistance helpline. The free helpline number is 0800 111 4000, or can be contacted via a textphone on 0800 111 4114. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

Callers will be put through to speak to someone at their local council. They’ll be able to advise on what types of help are available. This might include:

  • food, if you’re not able to get the day-to-day food you need
  • medication, if you’re not able to pick up the prescriptions you need
  • access to local social work services
  • emotional support
  • contact with local volunteer groups

 

Support for town centres

(12/06/20)

Town centres will benefit from £2 million of funding to support the recovery of local communities as coronavirus (COVID-19) measures are gradually and carefully eased.

The Towns and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) Resilience and Recovery Fund is open to local authorities as well as community and development trusts, chambers of commerce and town centre partnerships to address immediate concerns.

It will help finance emergency recovery projects such as:

  • digital markets and virtual high streets
  • online local jobs and volunteering platforms
  • open for business guides and maps
  • physical distancing street markers and one way systems

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said:

“The coronavirus crisis is having an unprecedented impact on every high street and town centre as we take measures to suppress and control the spread of the virus.

“As we carefully ease out of lockdown it is vital that we support our local communities to safely reopen our high streets and recover from the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. The steps we take to rebuild our economy and restore our town centres must be flexible and adaptable to allow them to respond quickly to any future changes.

“This funding will support the implementation of new measures for town centres, addressing immediate concerns and assisting in the recovery and renewal of local communities. This is also an opportunity to consider the future of our towns. We want to support them to be greener, healthier places where business and social activity thrive and their recovery is an important part of our ambitions on social renewal, as we work towards reducing poverty and disadvantage.”

Background 

BIDs and towns organisations will be able to access at least £1.7 million of the Towns and BIDs Resilience & Recovery Fund directly through applying to Scotland’s Towns Partnership. The remaining funding will be used for data analysis, communications and the development of a national media campaign.

The Fund will be open for applications from towns organisations on Monday 15 June. Information on how to apply will be available on the Scotland’s Towns Partnership website.

The £2 million Towns and BIDs Resilience and Recovery Fund is in addition to the £1 million BIDs Resilience Fund announced in March. To date, 37 operational BIDs have now successfully applied for COVID-19 BIDs Resilience and £995,000 has been awarded. BIDs will be able to access the new funding from September when the £1 million BID Resilience Fund expires.

More support for small businesses

Grants extended to help more companies in need

Small businesses which share properties but do not pay business rates are now eligible to apply for grants to help with the impact of COVID-19.

The extension to the Small Business Grant Fund will apply to firms occupying shared office spaces, business incubators or shared industrial units and who lease the space from a registered, rate-paying landlord. Separately, eligibility has also been extended to companies occupying multiple premises with a cumulative value of more than £51,000.

From today, eligible businesses will be able to apply to their local authority for grants of up to £10,000.

It has also been confirmed that the Small Business Grant and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant schemes will close for new applications on 10 July. Latest figures up to 2 June show that £824.541 million has been distributed to 72,622 businesses across Scotland through the schemes, but that new applications have slowed in recent weeks.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said:

“Our comprehensive package of business support is now worth more than £2.3 billion. Our programme is kept under constant review, and we are always looking for ways to extend eligibility to help more businesses. That is precisely what we are doing today.

“New applications for the Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant schemes have slowed in recent weeks as large numbers of businesses have already applied. We are committed to ensuring every penny we receive from the UK Government for business support – and more – will be passed to businesses. It is essential that we do not allow funds to sit for too long in schemes that are attracting few applications, so we have decided to bring these to a close next month. That will mean that any remaining money can be re-routed to help businesses in other ways, as we have already started to do for the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund.

“I would encourage the owners of any eligible small business which needs support to consider applying through their local authority during the next five weeks and before 10 July.”

Background

Further details on these grant schemes.

Applications for a Small Business Support Grant may now be made to the appropriate local authority from tenants that are a registered business or partnership, have a lease signed before 17 March 2020, employ at least one person and have a business bank account.

From 5 May, the Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants were extended to businesses with multiple properties. This included businesses with a number of properties whose cumulative rateable value exceeded £35,000 (making them ineligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme, thereby preventing them from accessing the Small Business Grant) and whose individual rateable value does not exceed £18,000 (thereby preventing them from receiving a Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant). To date, the cumulative rateable value of all such properties held was capped at £51,000, but from 8 June, this is increased to £500,000.

Schedule 3.1 of the Scottish Government’s Summer Budget Revision confirms the budget for the Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants as £1.202 billion.

Initial Test and Protect data published

Breaking the chain of virus transmission

10/06/20

The first set of data from week one of the coronavirus (COVID-19) Test and Protect system has been published.

The data, which will be published weekly, shows:

  • the number of positive index cases from 28 May to 7 June
  • the number of index cases where contact tracing has been completed
  • the number of contact traces

Since Test and Protect was launched, 681 cases have tested positive with 741 contacts traced.

The level of data published will continue to improve once the data is robust and validated.

Cabinet Secretary for Health Jeane Freeman said:

“Since 28 May, contact tracers across the country have followed up each new positive test to ensure those who may have come into contact with the virus take steps to isolate. By doing so, we can break the chains of transmission while slowly changing lockdown measures.

“The average number of people traced for each positive case reflects that we are still in phase 1 of lifting lockdown restrictions and people should not be mixing with large numbers of people outside of their own household.

“I would encourage anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 to come forward as early as possible and get a test immediately to help us supress the spread of the virus.

“Contact tracing is one part of our work to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical distancing and good hand and cough hygiene continues to play a vital role in helping to minimise the spread of infection.”

Background

Test and Protect was rolled out across Scotland on 28 May 2020.

The Test and Protect data is published on Public Health Scotland’s website

Help for Business

Additional £40 million of support for key sectors

(20/05/20)

The Scottish Government’s Business Support Fund has been increased by £40 million to provide additional support for key sectors of the Scottish economy.

This extra funding will be split between the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund, which has increased by £30 million to £120 million, and the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, which has increased by £10 million to £30 million. Both funds closed to applications on 18 May.

Cabinet Secretary for Economy Fiona Hyslop said:

“We are listening to what businesses need and following the First Minister’s announcement earlier this month that the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund would double to £90 million to meet demand, we will now add a further £30 million to help as many SMEs as possible survive these incredibly difficult times.

“Our creative, tourism and hospitality sector is one where we know there are particular pressures, so we have also increased this fund by £10 million.

“These funds are supporting businesses the length and breadth of Scotland and continue our commitment to ensure every penny of the additional business money that has come to Scotland is passed on to support our economy.

“Crucially, we are also focusing our efforts to help those who are not captured by the UK Government schemes.”

Background:

Businesses can visit FindBusinessSupport.gov.scot for the latest information on funding opportunities.

The funds which make up the £185 million support package are as follows:

  • £34 million Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund, managed by Local Authorities, allocated to the newly self-employed who are ineligible for UK support (as they became self-employed since April 2019) but are facing hardship
  • £30 million Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, managed by the Enterprise Agencies with support from Creative Scotland and VisitScotland for small and micro creative, tourism and hospitality companies not in receipt of business rates relief with grants of up to £25K
  • £120 million Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund, managed by the Enterprise Agencies providing bespoke grants and wrap around business support to viable but vulnerable SMEs who are vital to the local or national economic foundations of Scotland

The Scottish Government is also providing £1 million to top up Creative Scotland’s Bridging Bursaries scheme in the not-for-profit sector.

Tackling violence against women and girls during Covid-19

New guidance for local authorities

(19/05/20)

Councils will get more support to deal with increased levels of domestic abuse and gender-based violence during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

New guidance developed in partnership with COSLA will help women and children continue to get the best support that they deserve.

The guidance signposts to local resources, and assists decision-makers in identifying women and children at risk as well as the short, medium and long term steps they can take to support their recovery and wellbeing.

The guidance is part of a range of measures introduced to tackle higher levels of abuse and violence, including a £1.5 million funding package for the women’s aid and rape crisis network. It will help to maximise the effective protection and provision of support for those experiencing gender-based violence, both during this immediate crisis period and in the longer term.

Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie said:

“I am both saddened and shocked that domestic abuse has increased during this lock down period. It is unacceptable that people are at risk from those they live with. While these times are difficult for all of us, there are unfortunately those who are more badly affected. Some women and children may feel more even isolated now, and need our help more than ever.

“This guidance is underpinned by our existing Equally Safe strategy and will support the strong leadership already being demonstrated by local authorities and their key  community planning partners across Scotland.

“We want to continue to work with our partners and to share intelligence, shape the ongoing crisis response and plan for the long term.

“Together, the Scottish Government and COSLA are committed to tackling violence against women and girls wherever it exists and through whatever form it manifests. Our work in this area remains at the heart of the our joint response to Covid-19.”

Councillor Kelly Parry, COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, said:

“We know that this pandemic has heightened the risks to women and children living with domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence globally. This supplementary guidance is informed by the expertise of a broad range of committed services and partner organisations in Local Authority areas across Scotland.

“Covid-19 does not offer abusers an excuse for their choices and their behaviours. Working closely with colleagues across health services and with third sector specialist services, we will continue to robustly seek to provide support  to all victims of gender-based violence and to hold perpetrators of violence and abuse firmly to account.”

Background

Read the Scottish Government’s and COSLA’s joint guidance developed with Public Health Scotland and the Improvement Service.

Scotland’s 24hr Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline is available on 0800 027 1234.

Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline is available on 08088 01 03 02. Calls to this number are free. Or email support@rapecrisisscotland.org.uk or text 07537 410027.

Equally Safe: Scotland’s Strategy to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women and Girls

Emergency marriage and civil partnership guidance

13/05/20

Guidance on how to apply for an emergency marriage or civil partnership during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is to be published. The Scottish Government will work with National Records of Scotland to set out guidance on the kinds of occasions where an emergency marriage or civil partnership is allowed and how to apply for them.

Speaking as Parliament consented to the general principles of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No2)  Bill at Stage 1, Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said: “But there are people facing extremely difficult circumstances who want to show their love and commitment to each other, such as where a partner is to be posted overseas by the armed forces or is sadly terminally ill, and we want to do all we can to help.”

Background

The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Bill can be read here.

 

Emergency loan fund for SME housebuilders

07/05/20

Housebuilders will be able to apply for short-term loans of up to £1 million from the Scottish Government to support them through the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with liquidity issues due to the temporary closure of the housebuilding sector will be able to apply to a £100 million Scottish Government emergency loan fund which aims to:

  • safeguard jobs and protect suppliers
  • support post-COVID-19 economic recovery and the continued supply of homes
  • retain diversity of the housebuilding sector

Background

SME housebuilders will be able to apply for loan support from 14:00 on Monday 18 May on the Scottish Government website. Full details on the criteria for the Fund will be available at that point.

Applicants should be a SME housebuilder with a turnover of £45 million or less per year and building five or more homes per annum. They should only apply for funding that is necessary for the short term. They will be asked to explain why existing support mechanisms are not sufficient for their business.

Loans are capped at £1 million, most loans are expected to be repaid within two years with interest rates set at 2%. The minimum loan amount is £50,000.

Getting people online

Funding to connect the most vulnerable

07/05/20

A new £5 million programme will offer an internet connection, training and support, and a laptop or tablet to vulnerable people who are not already online during the response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Connecting Scotland programme will connect 9,000 more people who are considered at clinically high risk themselves so they can access services and support and connect with friends and family during the pandemic.

Those who take part in the programme will be paired with a ‘digital champion’ to support them for six months while they get connected and find the information they need.

Local authorities and the third sector will lead on identifying people to receive devices, distributing them and providing training and support.

Background

The Connecting Scotland project is being delivered by the Scottish Government, in partnership with local authorities, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and the digital and IT sectors led by ScotlandIS. It is also supported by Microsoft, Leidos, the Data Lab, Accenture and Gartner.

Eligible digitally excluded people will be identified by local authorities and third sector organisations and offered a device with a mobile internet data package, which will be delivered to their homes. A ‘digital champion’ will provide phone and online support for an initial period of six months – after which the project will be evaluated to assess support needed longer term. Training and support for digital champions is being coordinated by SCVO, and will be delivered through local authorities and third sector bodies.

In advance of the roll out of the main programme, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) trialled the approach with Glasgow Disability Alliance and Govan Housing Association tenants.

Future of the Job Retention Scheme

07/05/20

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes have written to the UK Government calling for assurances that Scottish companies and workers will not be disadvantaged when decisions are made about scaling back the UK-wide Job Retention Scheme.

The letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urges the adoption of a ‘measured approach’,  and stresses the importance of taking Scotland’s specific economic and public health circumstances into account when decisions about the future of the scheme are made.

Full text of letter follows:

We welcome the important role that the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) is playing in supporting continued employment and income, and the fact that so many people have now started to receive that support directly.

Although the JRS has only recently opened for applications, we note from your media appearances in recent days that you are starting to consider a gradual exit from the Scheme from July.

We welcome your statement that there will not be a “cliff edge” to this support ending, but we share the concern raised by a large number of stakeholders about the uncertainty this brings.

The JRS is an essential lifeline for employers and employees, alongside the other schemes that have been put in place by both the UK Government and the Scottish Government.  We understand that the support will need to be scaled back over time, but it is imperative that is done in a carefully considered way, and reflects the economic priorities of each of the four nations and the different sectors of our economies.  The ability to stagger the closure of the scheme may be beneficial in considering how we safely exit the restrictions currently in place.

The First Minister set out our Framework for Decision Making last week.  That will guide us as we make decisions about transitioning out of current lockdown arrangements and we have committed to working with the people of Scotland, including businesses, trades unions and others, as we make our judgements.

We have written separately to Alok Sharma in relation to the draft guidance on safer workplaces that the UK Government shared at the weekend.  Employers and employees in Scotland are subject to guidance from the Scottish Chief Medical Officer, and this may differ from guidance issued by the UK Government, given the stage at which the health crisis is in Scotland compared to other parts of the UK.

We would like your early assurance that workers in Scotland would not be penalised as a result of any such difference, through any curtailing of the job retention scheme.  For example, if the rate of infection is lower in the rest of the UK than in Scotland, and as a result the Scottish Government advises that workers in Scotland should not return to work on the basis of public health grounds, it is important to provide reassurance that they will continue to be able to access support. As you will be well aware, the Scottish Government, under the terms of the fiscal framework, does not have the fiscal levers that would enable us to operate a similar scheme for Scotland only.

It is also likely to be the case, that as restrictions are eased, this will happen at a different pace across the different sectors of the economy. It will be important for the Job Retention Scheme to reflect any emerging guidance and that support is maintained, in some form, for sectors that remain closed or are only able to partially open.

It will be important, too, to consider wider flexibility in the schemes to adapt to the changing requirements we place on employers.  We have previously raised a number of concerns about the operation of the scheme – for example, in relation to pregnancy and maternity, and the ability of people to take on other roles while furloughed.  We know that there are some sectors, such as tourism and the oil and gas industry, where ongoing or different support may be required.  There is also an opportunity to support the transition to net zero emissions as part of our exit from the restrictions currently in place.  These and other emerging issues will require consideration as the scheme continues.

Looking forward, as ’test, trace, isolate’ is implemented across all four nations, it will also be crucial that workers required to isolate as a result of contact tracing are able to secure any necessary financial support so that they are able to self-isolate effectively.

While events are moving quickly, we look forward to early discussion on any proposals you are starting to develop on a measured approach to ending the JRS, and the alignment of that with health guidance.

 

Extra payment for unpaid carers

Investment of £19.2 million to support 83,000 carers

06/05/20

As part of the next emergency coronavirus legislation, the Scottish Government is proposing an additional £19.2 million investment in Carer’s Allowance Supplement.

This is in recognition of the additional pressure that carers are under as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

If approved by parliament, around 83,000 eligible carers will get an extra £230.10  through a special one-off Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement in June.

As with the current supplement, they will not need to do anything to get this extra payment as it will be paid automatically to people in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.

This would mean that carers receive an additional £690.30 this year on top of their Carer’s Allowance and any other income. This supplement is not paid in the rest of the UK.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“We introduced the Carer’s Allowance Supplement to recognise the important contribution unpaid carers play in our society. They provide vital support to family, friends and neighbours. Our collective efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus will see many of these carers experiencing additional pressures, particularly financial, right now.

“The payment will benefit carers who are on low incomes and already have some of the most intense caring roles, providing at least 35 hours unpaid care weekly to a disabled child or adult in receipt of higher level disability benefits.

“This additional payment would be an acknowledgement to carers that we know that they are doing even more right now, and we thank you.”

Background

This additional £19.2 million would bring the total planned investment in social security support through Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Allowance Supplement and the Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement in this financial year to £349.6 million.

The Carer’s Allowance Supplement is paid to carers who are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance and living in Scotland on the relevant ‘qualifying date’. The qualifying date for the planned June payment and this proposed new payment was Monday 13 April.

Both the Carer’s Allowance Supplement and the Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement means the total payment in June will be £460.20.

Carers may receive a higher payment than £460.20 if they have had a Carer’s Allowance payment backdated to a previous Carer’s Allowance Supplement qualifying date.

The next qualifying date for Carer’s Allowance Supplement is Monday 12 October for payments that will be made in December and this will be £230.10.

Carers do not need to apply for Carer’s Allowance Supplement. This is paid through Social Security Scotland and the payments are made automatically. Carers receive a letter in advance with more information about the payment and details of when to expect it.

For unpaid carers not in receipt of Carer’s Allowance there is a range of financial and wider support available at this time. The Scottish Government is working with Citizens Advice Scotland to provide financial advice, please visit cas.org.uk or call 0800 028 1456

 

The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund

The Scottish Government’s additional £100m fund for businesses impacted by COVID-19 is now open for applications, here is further information about this support.

Companies will be able apply via our partner website https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/.  This grant funding has been divided into three distinct funds:

  • The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund – a £45m fund for viable but vulnerable SME firms who are vital to Scotland’s economy
  • The Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund – a £20m fund for small creative, tourism and hospitality companies not in receipt of COVID-19 business rates relief
  • The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund – a £35m fund for newly self-employed facing hardship through £2,000 grants

In a collaborative approach, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise will deliver both the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund and the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, with support from Creative Scotland and VisitScotland.

The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund will be delivered by local authorities.  Links to individual local authority applications are available via the https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/ website.  Full information about the eligibility criteria for this fund has been attached.

We are acutely aware of how tough a time this is for businesses in Scotland, so demand for this additional funding is likely to be exceptionally high.  A guiding principle for us throughout this crisis has been to provide support to those who need it most.  Delivering this extra assistance will be no different and will be of vital importance in order to support the economy.

For the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund, support will be targeted at businesses that can demonstrate the following:

  • Drive economic prosperity – for example through wages, employment, exports, supply chain, etc.
  • Are a supplier or potential supplier to NHS or other COVID-19 vital services
  • Are suppliers to other essential businesses
  • Can scale up or diversify due to COVID-19 opportunities
  • Continue to trade or can quickly come out of hibernation
  • Play an important role within their local community

For the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, support will be targeted at businesses in this sector that can demonstrate financial hardship due to COVID-19.

For each fund, companies must meet the following eligibility criteria:

The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund

  • Companies with up to 249 employees that have been trading successfully prior to COVID-19
  • Less than €50m turnover or balance sheet total of €43m
  • Can demonstrate the funding will support the business to be viable
  • Not in financial difficulty before 31 December 2019
  • Must have business bank account

The Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund

  • Companies up to 49 employees
  • Experienced at least a 50% loss of current or projected revenue
  • Not in financial difficulty pre 31th December 2019
  • Are not in receipt of other COVID-19 government support, except Coronavirus Job Retention ‘Furlough’ Scheme
  • Not for pre-revenue companies
  • Must have a business bank account

We have all worked together at pace to ensure the appropriate infrastructure and capacity is in place to deliver this support.  Resources have been reallocated to ensure this fund is administered at maximum efficiency.  We have pulled together key individuals across our respective organisations, such as Account Managers and Specialists, to support the appraisal of applications.

Getting the money to recipients is of critical importance.  We anticipate the application process will take no more than ten working days and successful applicants will receive funds paid 100% upfront within that timeframe.

Full details on what information companies will need to provide as part of the application process can be viewed at https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/.

 

Preparing for economic recovery

Expert tech review announced as further business support opens to applications

06/05/20

The second phase of the Small Business Grant scheme – which extends grant support to all subsequent eligible properties – is now open for applications, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has told the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Forbes also announced a review to examine how Scotland’s tech industry can help the economy recover.

The second phase of the Small Business Grant scheme ensures that – in addition to existing grants of £10,000 or £25,000 for the first property – businesses may now qualify for grants of £7,500 or £18,750 on all subsequent eligible premises.

In addition, retail, hospitality and leisure properties with a rateable value up to £18,000 that do not qualify for the Small Business Bonus Scheme, may now qualify for Small Business Grants.

These enhancements, announced in April, are worth an estimated £120 million extra to businesses in Scotland.

Giving an update to the Scottish Parliament, Ms Forbes announced a new short-life review – led by former Skyscanner Chief Operating Officer Mark Logan – to make recommendations on how Scotland’s thriving tech industry can help with economic recovery.

She also re-affirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to pass on the latest £155 million of consequentials to local government in full, and called for the Scottish Parliament to be given additional fiscal powers to help address the challenges facing Scotland’s economy.

Background:

The Small Business Grant Scheme is being administered by local authorities. Businesses can get information on how to apply via their local council.

The Scottish Government is delivering a package of business support worth around £2.3 billion, which includes:

  • £50 million to effectively freeze non-domestic rates at 2019-20 levels – the only country in the UK to do so
  • £824 million to provide 100% rates relief to properties in the Retail, Hospitality, Leisure and aviation sectors
  • £1.3 billion of support made available through two grant schemes, for Small Business and for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure
  • a £100 million package of additional grant support for SMEs and newly self-employed people

Aid for private rental landlords

Support to protect tenants

A £5 million fund will offer interest-free loans to landlords whose tenants are having difficulty paying rent during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

The Private Rent Sector Landlord COVID-19 Loan Scheme will offer eligible landlords up to 100% of lost rental income for a single property.

It will support private-sector landlords who are not classified as businesses, have five or less properties to rent and have lost rental income due to tenants unable to pay rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Background

The Private Rent Sector Landlord (non-business) COVID-19 Loan Scheme opened for applications on 5 May.  Information can be found here.

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 already protects tenants from any eviction action for six months.

Landlords facing difficulties with repayments on a mortgage for a rental property are expected to seek a mortgage repayment holiday from their lender before they apply for a loan.

The application process requires landlords to confirm they understand the terms of the Coronavirus Act 2020 in relation to eviction proceedings, and that they have discussed rent issues with their tenant and reached agreement on managing arrears.

Supporting mental health

Further investment to help children and families during pandemic

03/05/20

Key mental health services to support families, young people and autistic people are to receive more than £1 million additional funding.

Health Secretary Ms Freeman made the announcement today (Sunday) following 40 days of lockdown when many people have felt an effect on their mental health. The allocation of funding comprises:

• £768,000 for a relationships helpline to be delivered by The Spark counselling service
• £105,000 to support Young Scot to develop enhanced digital content and resources on mental health
• £205,000 to support 47,000 autistic people across Scotland, including funding to increase capacity at the Scottish Autism Helpline and help for the National Autistic Society to keep people in touch online during lockdown.

Background

The Clear Your Head campaign highlights practical ways to look after mental health and wellbeing while continuing to stay at home – and signposts sources of help and advice.

The Spark is a third sector organisation which delivers counselling services to families across Scotland, including relationship and couples counselling and counselling for children and young people. They currently operate a Relationship Helpline on a small scale for nine hours a week. The number of the Relationship Helpline is 0808 802 2088 and this additional funding will enable the helpline to operate Monday-Thursday 9am to 9pm and Friday 9am to 4pm.

Scotland has launched a digital resource called Mind Yer Time specifically to help children and young people learn about the healthy use of screens and social media. It supports mental and physical health online and was developed by the Scottish Youth Parliament and Children’s Parliament. In the first ten days since its launch the guide had almost 13,000 views.

The additional funding will allow the Scottish Autism Helpline to open 8am-8pm, seven days a week on 01259 222022.

Further details of the additional funding for autism support

 

£75m boost for Scottish university research

One-off Government payment to help mitigate financial effects of COVID-19

06/05/20

The Scottish Government has announced a one-off £75 million increase in funding for Scotland’s universities to ensure they can protect their world-leading research programmes against the financial impact of COVID-19.

The significant intervention will help secure the jobs and training needed to support ongoing and future research work, meaning institutions can concentrate fully on planning the long-term future of a sector so vital to the Scottish economy.

Universities will also be expected to adapt and use their own resources, as well as the packages of support for businesses provided by the UK Government, to counter the effects of the pandemic on research operations.

The new funding will replace lost research income, protect research jobs, and help universities focus more effort on the high priority research needed to fight the outbreak and to support society and the economy, post COVID-19.

Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, has now written to his UK Government counterpart Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Universities, calling for a UK investment and support package for Higher Education (HE), including additional financial support for universities, to ensure they and their graduates can continue to play a key role in the UK’s economic and social recovery from the pandemic.

Scottish university income has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, most notably by a loss of international student income, cancelled conference bookings, and returned accommodation fees. Recent Scottish Funding Council (SFC) analysis indicated Scottish universities face a loss of around £72 million due to COVID-19 this academic year alone, with a collective operating deficit of between £384 million and £651 million forecast for next academic year.

The Scottish Government is working with the SFC and the sector to mitigate the current issues across the range of university activities including research, supporting teaching excellence and student well-being.

Looking beyond lockdown

First Minister opens discussion on “new normal”
23/04/20
A document outlining how decisions will be taken to control coronavirus (COVID-19) while restoring a degree of normality to everyday life has today been published by the Scottish Government.
The paper – COVID-19: A Framework for Decision-Making – sets out the position during this ongoing period of lockdown and outlines the factors that must be considered as we move gradually to ease restrictions.
It also recognises that new ways of living – effectively a “new normal” – may have to be in place for some time to come.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Today I am seeking to start a grown up conversation with the public about the complex decisions that lie ahead of us as we look beyond lockdown.
“As we have done all along, we will seek to inform the public with the best scientific advice possible, but the science will never be exact and we are in uncharted territory so we also need to make careful judgements and be prepared to adapt and change course as we go.
“We want to ease restrictions, but we cannot rule out having to reapply them should the virus run out of control.
“Every day we see evidence that this virus causes real harm, but so too do the lockdown measures we are taking to contain it. This is causing harm to the economy and living standards, to children’s education and to mental health and wellbeing.
“That is why we need to try to find a better balance than the one we have now, but as we do so we cannot take our eye off the need to suppress the virus and minimise the damage it does.
“It is only when we are sure the virus is under control that we can even start to ease any of the restrictions because the virus will not have gone away.
“As we start to lift the restrictions, the real risk is that COVID-19 runs rampant again so a return to normal as we knew it is not on the cards in the near future.
“What we will be seeking to find is a new normal – a way of living alongside this virus, but in a form that keeps it under control.
“Physical distancing and limiting our contacts with others will be a fact of life for a long time to come – certainly until treatments and ultimately a vaccine offer different solutions. But if we all keep doing the right things, there will be a way through – and we will find it, together.”
Background

The document is available here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making/

Social distancing measures extended

Temporary regulations confirmed and extended to protect workers

21/04/20

Social distancing regulations introduced to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed and extended to protect workers.

Temporary regulations restricting public gatherings and non-essential business activity have been in force since 26 March.

The regulations must be reviewed every 3 weeks and are kept under continual review by the Scottish Government.  A number of amendments have now been made to protect workers and provide further guidance for people in Scotland.

The adjustments to the regulations include formalising the two metre distancing rules to all businesses that remain open. Businesses that do not take all reasonable measures to enforce those rules could be fined or ultimately prosecuted.

The legislation will also make clear that livestock markets and money advice services such as foreign exchange services can continue to operate, while holiday accommodation businesses can manage online and telephone services for bookings related to future dates. A technical change has also been made to clarify that burial grounds can stay open.

Background 

Following Royal Assent of the UK Coronavirus Bill, the Scottish regulations came into force on 26 March and were approved by the Scottish Parliament on 1 April.

The Scottish Government is required to review the regulations at least once every 21 days, with the first review made on 16 April.

The regulations can be found here.

Updated guidance following these changes can be found here.

Specific guidance on business and social distancing is also available here.

 

Supporting families through Covid-19

140,000 children and young people provided with free school meals

Around 140,000 children and young people across Scotland are being supported with the provision of a free school meal as part of efforts to support the most vulnerable children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Local authorities are providing the majority of meals through vouchers, direct payments or home deliveries, according to the latest monitoring data.

Meals are also provided at some education-early years hubs, around 400 of which are open across Scotland to ensure continuity of education and pastoral care for vulnerable young people including those with additional support needs, as well as children of key workers.

New guidance to support continuity of learning at the start of term 4, which for the vast majority of children and young people will be experienced at home, will be published in the coming days as Easter school break ends. The Parent Club Scotland website also continues to be updated with a range of advice and support through the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Scottish Government is working with a range of partners to support children and families and mitigate the impact of the outbreak and the necessary social distancing measures on education and other vital services to support health and wellbeing.

Funding has been provided for a range of local and national projects, including through the £350 million Communities support package announced last month to help those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes extra support for care-experienced young people, providing updated advice and IT support for families, and responding to a rising demand for counselling from children and young people.

Background

An estimated 122,000 children and young people are eligible for free school meals because their families are in receipt of qualifying benefits. The Scottish Government provided local authority partners with £30 million of new investment to support families unable to access food as a result of COVID-19, with £15 million specifically for free school meals.

Information about free school meals can be found on the MyGov website.

In the coming days guidance prepared by the Scottish Government and Education Scotland, with advice and input from education partners, will provide an overview of the shared expectations at a national and local level of what partners will each do to support children and young people. The guidance will outline actions to ensure that learning continues for children and young people during term four.

As well as advice and support on the Parent Club Scotland and Parentzone Scotland websites, information for young people is also available on the Young Scot website.

Educational psychologists in education authorities and partner agencies have provided advice to staff as well as materials, that help address the mental health needs of Scotland’s young people during the crisis.

Detailed health advice can be found at NHS Inform.

Read further information and the latest guidance and updates on the response of government and other agencies on the Scottish Government’s coronavirus COVID-19 webpage.

 

Further support for small businesses and the self employed

15/04/20

Around £220 million of further grants are being made available for businesses – including the recently self-employed – to help them deal with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The new package of measures includes £120 million to extend the Small Business Grant scheme to ensure that, in addition to a 100% grant on the first property, small business rate payers will be eligible to a 75% grant on all subsequent properties.

A further £100 million fund is also being made available to protect self-employed people and viable micro and SME businesses in distress due to COVID. This fund will be channelled through local authorities and enterprise agencies to target newly self-employed people and businesses who are ineligible for other Scottish Government or UK Government schemes.

Applications for the £100 million fund will be open by the end of the month, and the new arrangements for the Small Business Grant will be in place to receive applications on 5 May.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said:

“The Scottish Government’s primary concern remains protecting people’s health, but it is still the case that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is having severe economic consequences for businesses around the country.

“We are doing everything we can to support business at this difficult time and we continue to listen to and engage with the sector.

“Our support for business now exceeds the £2.2 billion passed on from the UK Government and actively works to fill the gaps in the UK schemes.

“Around 100,000 businesses in total are already eligible for our small business grants and from today we will be extending that scheme in response to feedback from businesses on the frontline of this economic crisis.

“The creation of a £100 million fund is to help those micro and SME businesses who face immediate cash flow challenges, are ineligible for other schemes and are the productive base for supporting employment in the future. It will also support those newly self-employed people who are also ineligible for UK schemes and will be a vital lifeline for many businesses and individuals across Scotland.

“With UK Government support not being available until June, we are going further to secure the future economic viability of Scottish firms and applications will be open by the end of the month.

“While many businesses are in difficulty, some are doing better than others or can pull through from their own resources.

“Just as we ask the public only to buy what they need in the supermarkets, we are asking businesses who do not need this vital help to refrain from claiming additional support unless absolutely necessary so we can direct as much help as possible to those who need it most.”

Furlough scheme cut-off date extended to 19 March

15/04/20

Thousands more employees will able to receive support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) after the eligibility date was extended to 19 March 2020, the government announced today.

  • eligibility cut-off date for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extended to 19 March 2020
  • the change will mean thousands more workers can be furloughed
  • scheme expected to be fully operational next week

Under the scheme announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month, employers can claim a grant covering 80% of the wages for a furloughed employee, subject to a cap of £2,500 a month.

To qualify and to protect against fraudulent claims, individuals originally had to be employed on February 28 2020.

But following a review of the delivery system and to ensure the scheme helps as many people as possible, new guidance published today has confirmed the eligibility date has been extended to March 19 2020– the day before the scheme was announced.

Employers can claim for furloughed employees that were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. This means that the employee must have been notified to HMRC through an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee on or before 19 March 2020.

This change makes the scheme more generous while keeping the substantial fraud risks under control and is expected to benefit over 200,000 employees.

If you think you might now be eligible, check here.

A new national helpline has been set up to provide essential assistance to those who don’t have a network of support but who are at high risk if they contract Coronavirus (COVID-19).

16/04/20

Scottish Government and Local Government have been working with Local Resilience Partnerships across Scotland to set up and launch a coronavirus helpline for people at high risk with an urgent need for support. It has launched today (Tuesday 14th April). This support will be delivered by a range of local groups, including councils, the third sector and volunteers.

The service will offer help to those who do not have family or existing community support and cannot get online and who are over 70, disabled people, require the support of mental health services, are pregnant or receive a flu jab for health reasons. This service is in addition to localised support already available for people who have received letters advising them to shield themselves. However, any of those in the shielding category who are not yet receiving assistance, who do not have family and cannot get online can access support via this new helpline.

The helpline (number below) will initially operate during core working hours of 09:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday while plans are developed and implemented to extend it to operate for a longer period each day.

Coronavirus free helpline: 0800 111 4000

Callers will be automatically connected to their local authority who will support them to access the service they need, such as:

· essential food and medication

· links to local social work services for vulnerable children or adults

· emotional support

· contact with local volunteer groups.

Please remember this helpline is dedicated to helping those who cannot leave their home and who cannot get help online.

Companies to receive help in managing remote workers

15/04/20

The Scottish Government, together with the Hunter Foundation through the Social Innovation Partnership, is supporting Flexibility Works with £175,000 to offer vital advice and support to businesses in this time of crisis. The new organisation, aimed at helping companies to manage remote workers during the coronavirus outbreak, was launched today.

Business Minister Jamie Hepburn said: “The ability to work flexibly is more important than ever as working practices change to tackle coronavirus. This new initiative will support organisations to continue to operate and adapt to the changed circumstances.”

Read more here

Helping people cope during COVID-19

14/04/20

Additional support to help people look after their mental health and wellbeing during and after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The support includes an investment of more than £1 million towards the expansion of the Distress Brief Intervention (DBI) programme to help people in distress, and the launch of a new mental health marketing campaign across television, radio, print and online.

The DBI programme, which was previously operating in four pilot areas, will roll-out across Scotland, giving people over the age of 16 who are in emotional distress due to COVID-19 the opportunity to speak to specially trained staff. People who are in distress but do not need clinical intervention will be referred to the DBI programme by frontline staff, including NHS 24.

The first phase of the new mental health campaign will launch this month and provide people with practical advice on coping with the current restrictions. Signposting to existing advice will be included and those who need extra support will be directed to NHS Inform as a key information resource and helplines operated by NHS 24, Breathing Space, SAMH and Samaritans.

The First Minister said:

“COVID-19 restrictions have affected all of our lives. People who may never have been affected by mental health issues in the past, are now facing emotional distress due to financial loss, bereavement and social distancing.

“NHS 24 has experienced an increase in calls, including to Breathing Space, in recent weeks and we anticipate this will continue to grow. It is vital that during this period of uncertainty anyone who requires support for their mental health can receive it.

“Since 2017 more than 6,600 people have accessed the DBI programme and I am pleased that people across the country will now be able to access this support. Early intervention like this is such an important part of how we treat mental and emotional health and the DBI is all about equipping people with the skills and support to manage their own health and to prevent future crisis.

“This £1 million investment is in addition to the £3.8 million we invested last month to increase capacity of our telephone and digital mental health services. This national marketing campaign will equip us all with some practical things we can do to feel better and help us cope until things return to normal.”

Background:

 The DBI programme which launched in 2017 currently operates in Lanarkshire, the Borders, Inverness and Aberdeen. Around £1,038,000 will be invested in recruiting staff to expand and develop the Distress Brief Intervention programme nationwide. Funding will be distributed to NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders, third sector partners Penumbra, Support in Mind and SAMH, and to Stirling University for evaluation and Glasgow University for training.

The nationwide DBI programme will mean that people in distress related to COVID-19 who have no need for clinical intervention will be either linked directly by phone to NHS 24 by the first responder, or directed to phone NHS 24 if they are able to. Once through to NHS 24 an initial assessment will be made as to next steps, and whether they should then be referred to the DBI programme. If they are referred the distress responder will follow up with a phone call within 24 hours of referral.

Last month the Scottish Government announced £3.8 million of extra funding to begin to increase the capacity of NHS 24’s telephone and online services.

This includes £2.6 million to expand the NHS 24 Mental Health Hub and Breathing Space telephone helpline and web support service and £1.2 million to provide extra capacity for Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT). Information about these expanded services will come on line as they become active.

The new mental health marketing campaign will respond to people’s needs by moving into a second phase focused on people’s resilience, and a third phase for when restrictions are lifted and we re-emerge into society.

Reassurance for students during Coronavirus outbreak

14/04/20

Prospective university and college students are being reassured that they will receive their results on time, and universities and colleges will assess qualifications as part of the admissions process.

Minister for Further Education and Higher Education Richard Lochhead has written to students emphasising that their educational futures are being protected during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Universities are also being urged to observe a moratorium on changing offers made to undergraduate students.

In a letter to principals, Mr Lochhead underlined the need for a stable Higher Education admissions system while the country collectively responds to the challenges of COVID-19.

Mr Lochhead said:

“I understand that many students who have applied to university or college this year will be anxious that school exams cannot go ahead as a result of the impact of COVID-19.

“The Scottish Government took this action to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our children, young people and staff.

“While the protection of life remains our utmost priority, I am absolutely clear that we must ensure that the interests and life chances of our young people are protected, and that they will be rewarded for their hard work.

“Despite the disruption, students will quite rightly have their achievements recognised, and gain the qualifications and awards that they deserve after so many years of hard work.

“I am also confident that institutions will act responsibly, and recognise that our shared priority now must be to ensure the stabilisation of the Higher Education admissions system, which is in all of our interests, whilst we respond to the unprecedented challenges COVID-19 presents.”

Background

The letter to University and College applicants has been published on the SAAS Student Information Scotland website.

Letter to University Principals
14 April 2020

You may be aware of a letter issued by Michelle Donelan, the UK Government Universities Minister, on 3 April informing Higher Education providers in England of the moratorium, until 20 April, on changing offers made to undergraduate students, such as converting conditional offers to unconditional offers or changing entry requirements. I know you will understand very well that this practice risks destabilising the admissions system, increasing financial uncertainty and volatility for all institutions at a time when universities are already facing significant pressures.

I firstly want to thank you all for not having changed offers to students, or participated in any activity that has led to the moratorium being necessary. I am, however, writing to you in expectation that Scottish institutions maintain this position and observe the moratorium until 20 April, to ensure consistency with English providers.

I am confident institutions will act responsibly and recognise that our shared priority now must be to ensure the stabilisation of the Higher Education admissions system, which is in all of our interests, whilst we collectively respond to the challenges Covid-19 presents. However, I feel it’s important to provide some reassurance to our prospective students about the admissions process at what is an extremely worrying time for them. I will therefore shortly be issuing a message to reassure applicants that they will receive their exam results in good time for universities to assess qualifications in the usual way; and to remind them that the UCAS May deadlines are being extended by two weeks to give students more time to make decisions about their future.

My purpose in writing to you at this time is to seek your support to ensure our sector continues to act in a way which maintains the stability of the university admissions system and ensures students’ best interests are safeguarded. I am aware that the sector in Scotland is already working with SQA and my officials to ensure that the admissions process works for this year’s applicants. I would like to commend you for that and my hope is that we can continue to work collaboratively on this matter in the coming weeks and months.

I would like to extend my thanks to all universities and colleges in Scotland for their support in dealing with these unprecedented circumstances.

Yours sincerely

RICHARD LOCHHEAD
Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science

Immediate wage increase and sick pay provision for social care staff

12/04/20

Social care staff are to receive an immediate 3.3% pay increase backdated from 1 April

The move, agreed between the Scottish Government and COSLA, means staff will not need to wait for the pay to be backdated at a point later in the year following negotiations, as has happened in previous years.

It is part of a package of measures to support social care workers in recognition of the vital role they are playing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Social care support workers providing direct adult support will have their pay increased to at least the Real Living Wage rate of £9.30 an hour for all hours worked, including sleep-overs and hours worked by personal assistants.

The Scottish Government will also provide funding to third sector and independent providers specifically to ensure staff receive sick pay if they are off work ill or because they are self-isolating.

In addition, the agreed funding increase to these providers will give them the financial flexibility to increase wages across their organisations, and not just to frontline staff.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Scotland’s dedicated social care workers are on the frontline of our national pandemic response. Their work is always hugely valued, and never more so than now.

“The measures we are announcing in partnership with COSLA today will ensure all people providing adult social care receive the Real Living Wage for every hour worked with immediate effect, rather than having to wait until later in the year.

“As well as providing an uplift in pay for all social care workers, this package ensures social care providers have both flexibility to increase wages across their organisations and the necessary funding for sick pay if their employees are off ill or are self-isolating.”

Background

A joint letter from Ms Freeman and Cllr Stuart Currie, COSLA spokesperson for Health and Social Care, was issued to all local authorities setting out details of the package. This follows their previous letter to local authorities and integrated joint boards to confirm the key worker status of social care workers, and their access to childcare and support where required.

Since October 2016, the Scottish Government has provided funding to enable adult social care workers to be paid the Real Living Wage for waking hours. During 2018/19, this commitment was extended to include those undertaking overnight social care support. The commitment covers adult social care workers providing direct care and support to adults in care homes, care at home, day care and housing support.

Supporting domestic abuse victims

09/04/20
New campaign highlights that help is still available

A national campaign is being relaunched to reassure anyone experiencing domestic abuse that support is available to them during these difficult times. Social isolation measures put in place to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) may be adding pressure to those in abusive domestic situations.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “These are unsettling times for everyone but I want to be absolutely clear that anyone experiencing domestic abuse in the home is not alone. While they may feel isolated and vulnerable, help is still available round the clock.

“We have heard that victims may feel like they don’t want to bother the police or support services because of the crisis. The message of this campaign is absolutely clear: services are open and they are there to help you.

“Tackling domestic abuse is as much a priority now as ever. This outbreak should not prevent anyone experiencing violence, including coercive and controlling behaviours, from seeking such help or reporting a crime against them. Services are aware that there is a need to be sensitive to the fact that the person causing harm may be in the home and there is a number of ways in which support can be provided to victims in this situation. I hope the campaign being relaunched today makes clear what help is available and where to find it.”

Background

The Domestic Abuse campaign will relaunch on 10 April 2020 and will run until 17 May.

Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline is available on 0800 027 1234 or visit sdafmh.org.uk to email or webchat. Visit Safer.Scot for further information.

 

Guidance for construction industry

06/04/20

Non essential work should cease

Work on construction sites, unless it is for essential projects, should stop immediately, as confirmed in new guidance for the construction industry.

The guidance makes clear that work on construction projects should cease unless it is supporting crucial work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Any project deemed essential can only continue operating if it can comply with guidance on social distancing, safety and welfare during the COVID-19 outbreak. Any site unable to meet these requirements should close.

Essential projects include:

  • those to create or repurpose facilities which will be used directly in COVID-19 related activities
  • projects to create or repurpose facilities which will be used to accommodate key workers, or free up space in facilities to be used directly in COVID-19 related activities
  • projects which are considered essential public services
  • the repair and maintenance of critical infrastructure

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“We recognise that this is an extremely difficult time for businesses of all kinds, but the Scottish Government’s priority is saving lives and fighting COVID-19.

“To this end, all construction sites should close unless they are essential to the health and welfare of the country during this crisis. I want to make clear our thanks to the construction workers who are continuing to work on these essential projects.

“This guidance offers clear and comprehensive advice on how the industry should respond in these unprecedented and difficult times. I am grateful to the STUC, Unite the Union and Construction Scotland for their input.

“In this public health emergency it is vital that all businesses act responsibly and align fully with the social distancing measures introduced to protect the nation’s heath, well-being and economic future.”

Background

Operational advice to the construction sector

NHS boards will make decisions on their own individual sites and projects, in conjunction with contractors.

Advice on substantive support packages available for workers and business.

Key support services get £8m boost

06/04/20

People most at risk from the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak are to receive further support following emergency investment in crucial services.

Charities Scottish Women’s Aid, Social Bite and other key partners will share up to £8 million to provide an emergency response and ensure services can react to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Disadvantaged groups facing hardships such as homelessness, food insecurity or social isolation and loneliness are among those to benefit from services such as:

• emergency accommodation in Glasgow and Edinburgh
• the provision of food and essential supplies to vulnerable groups in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen
• public health information translated into British Sign Language (BSL) and the creation of an easy, one-stop shop approach for BSL users
• online and telephone support for both older people and young people, and more isolated members of the LGBT community, to improve mental resilience and wellbeing

This investment is part of the Scottish Government’s wider £350 million Communities Funding to help those most affected by the pandemic.

Welcoming the projects, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said:

“We are facing an unprecedented situation that requires a practical response – at scale and pace – to help people most at risk in our community. We must do all that we can to protect the health, welfare and wellbeing of the people of Scotland.

“These significant national investments are helping to strengthen the support available to individuals and ensuring that key services are available for those most in need.

“We are continuing to work with partners, including community organisations to ensure funding reaches those best placed to provide support.”

Background

The £350 million Communities Funding was announced by Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell on 18 March 2020.

Since it was announced more than £100 million of new support has been delivered to local authorities to assist their efforts. This includes £50 million in hardship funding, £22 million to bolster the Scottish Welfare Fund, and £30 million from the Food Fund.

An additional £23 million is held in reserve for the Scottish Welfare Fund and will be targeted to where it is most needed. £50 million is also in reserve to meet increased demand for Scottish Social Security and support through the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

The Third Sector Resilience Fund, worth £20 million, launched on the 25th of March.

Coronavirus food fund

05/04/20
Support to put meals on tables

Families unable to access food as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak will get support from local authorities with £30 million of new investment from the Scottish Government Food Fund.

The funding will support those most in need including families with children who are eligible for free school meals, older people, those with long-term health conditions and pregnant women.

Councils will have flexibility to use this additional resource in ways that best meet emerging local needs and circumstances, working with community groups and businesses to support home delivery, provide financial help and meet dietary requirements.

Allocations include more than £4.7 million for Glasgow, £2.2 million for Fife and £2.1 million for North Lanarkshire.

The funding, one part of the £350 million Communities Fund, will be distributed to councils across Scotland by COSLA.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said:

“This pandemic is impacting on all our lives but for some it is more than a disruption, it is severely restricting their ability to access food for themselves and their families.

“It is vital that we work together to ensure the most vulnerable people in our communities receive the support they need.

“Local authorities are uniquely placed to respond swiftly in partnership with community groups and organisations to help those struggling.

“We know that free school meals are vital for families across the country and an important way of ensuring their children receive the nutritious food they need. That is why it is so important that support continues while schools remain closed.

“This fund will help ensure the most vulnerable people in our society during this outbreak receive support. The guidance shared with local authorities today supports local thinking about how funding can best be targeted and deployed.”


Social distancing guidance for business

04/04/20

Essential that all businesses act responsibly to protect public health

Social distancing guidance for businesses in Scotland has been updated to help provide clarity on protecting their employees in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19).

It provides further information for employers and makes clear that those providing essential services must follow social distancing requirements.

It asks that the owners of businesses and operators of workplaces not required to close by law to consider whether what they do is essential to the efforts in the fight against the virus or benefit the wellbeing of society.

It also asks those employers if they can demonstrate and provide its workforce with confidence that it is consistently practising safe social distancing and complying with all other standard health and safety requirements.

If the answer to either of the above questions is no, workplaces are advised to close.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “We recognise that this is an extremely difficult time for businesses in Scotland and I must give my thanks to the many companies acting responsibly and taking action to protect their workers and the wider public.

The updated guidance we expect to be published today by the UK Government does not apply in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s established priority is public health and fighting the virus.  Workplaces that do not follow the Chief Medical Officer’s clear and consistent precautionary advice may be putting their employees, the wider public and our NHS at risk.  It is essential that all businesses act responsibly to safeguard the nation’s health, well-being and economic future.

“Our updated guidance asks non-essential businesses to consider whether their employees can work from home and, where not possible, they should close on a precautionary basis until such time it is clear to all staff and unions that they can operate in a way that is safe and fully compliant with social distancing as reducing our social interactions will reduce the spread of coronavirus.

“We need essential businesses and their supply chains to continue in their work and show that they are complying with social distancing guidance. We will work with business and trades union leaders so that we can all be clear on how activity can be undertaken safely and in a way that is fully compliant with social distancing. Unless and until such guidance is in place, non-essential workplaces, including construction sites, should close.”

The updated guidance for businesses.

The revised guidance sets out all business workplaces that are not being specifically required to close should consider a key set of questions– and at all times work on the precautionary basis:

  • Is what you do essential or material to the effort against the virus or to the wellbeing of society?
  • Are you able to demonstrate and give confidence to your workforce that you can consistently practice safe social distancing and comply with ALL other standard health and safety requirements?

If the answer to either of the above questions is no, the advice of the Chief Medical Officer on a precautionary basis is to close

Coronavirus (COVID-19): staying at home and away from others.

Deliveries for high risk groups

Local services to supply groceries and medicines to those most at risk

03/04/20

People in Scotland at highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) will begin to receive home deliveries of essential groceries on Friday.

Letters from the Chief Medical Officer have been issuing this week to those who are at greatest risk of COVID-19, to provide bespoke guidance on shielding from infection and information about the support available, which includes access to home deliveries through a text message service.

People who have received the letter this week and signed up to the service have been texted with the option of starting their weekly deliveries of essential food items including soup, pasta, rice, fruit, vegetables, tea, coffee and biscuits, as well as toiletries such as shower gel and toilet roll, on Friday.

Other measures being put in place include:

·         Specialist medicines such as chemotherapy drugs delivered through local health boards
·         Local Resilience Partnerships working with Community Pharmacy to scale up deliveries of pharmacy medicines
·         Work with supermarkets to ensure priority delivery slots for people at high clinical risk

hose in the high risk group who do not have access to mobile phones will be able to register for deliveries through their local authority. Contact details are on the NHS Inform website and can also be accessed through the main switchboard number for local councils.

The grocery delivery service will be led by Brakes and Bidfood with the first deliveries expected on 3 April.

The six categories of risk – as agreed by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers – are:
1. Solid organ transplant recipients

2. People with specific cancers:
a. People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
b. People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
c. People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
d. People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
e. People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs

3. People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD

4. People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)

5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection

6. People who are pregnant with significant congenital heart disease

Social distancing enforcement measures in place

27/03/20

New powers will help ensure compliance and save lives

Businesses and the public in Scotland are now required by law to follow necessary social distancing measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Scottish Government is using powers from the UK Coronavirus Bill to make it a criminal offence to flout the strict public health guidance that is helping save lives.

To enforce social distancing, people in Scotland are being asked to only go outside if they have a ‘reasonable excuse’. These include shopping for necessary food, household and medical supplies, travelling to and from work where working from home is not an option, and daily exercise that adheres to social distancing guidance.

Enforcement can be used against businesses and venues that have been told to close, including drinking establishments, entertainment venues, and indoor leisure and sports facilities.

Police Scotland can issue penalty notices of £30, rising to £60 if not paid within 28 days, where they have reason to believe there has been an offence under the regulations. These penalties are doubled for each repeat offence up to a £960 cap, with no reduction for early payment. Due to the exceptional nature of these powers, the regulations will be reviewed at least every 21 days to ensure they are still necessary.

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said:

“There has been a huge effort by the people and businesses of Scotland to respond to the unprecedented situation we face dealing with the coronavirus.

“I would like to thank everyone who is playing their part by staying at home to ensure the social distancing measures we have introduced help stop the spread of the virus.

“While the majority of people are doing the right thing, these regulations provide the police with emergency powers to enforce social distancing where necessary.

“It is only because of the unprecedented crisis we are facing, and to save lives, that these powers are being introduced. They are temporary and will be kept under review.

“I urge the people of Scotland to continue their outstanding collective effort and follow the rules that have been laid down.”

Background

Following Royal Assent of the UK Coronavirus Bill, the Scottish regulations came into force on 26 March and will be laid in the Scottish Parliament on 27 March.

The UK Government also laid English regulations on 26 March which are intended to, in the main, have the same effect as the Scottish regulations.

All regulations will expire in six months’ time. Further details of the regulations introduced to the Scottish Parliament can be found here.

Guidance for business

The Scottish Government has issued specific further social distancing guidance for business.

The regulations include powers to:

  • enable Police Scotland to enforce restrictions on the closure of all businesses and venues in which activities would lead to prolonged social contact. This includes all food and drink venues for consumption on site (with some exceptions such as hospitals and care homes); drinking establishments including bars, pubs and nightclubs, entertainment venues including cinemas, theatres, concert halls and bingo halls; museums and galleries; spas and massage parlours; casinos and betting shops; all indoor leisure and sports facilities including gyms
  • allow businesses or services that are considered essential services, such as food retailers and pharmacies, to continue to operate but prescribe that they must take reasonable steps to ensure social distancing measures within its premises

Guidance for the public

A non-exhaustive list of reasonable excuses for when people can leave their home includes:

  • shopping for food
  • essential household and medical supplies
  • exercise once a day
  • medical assistance
  • travel to work where work at home is not an option
  • attending a funeral of a member of their household, a close family member or in the event that no family or household member is attending the funeral, of a friend
  • providing care or assistance to others
  • and meeting legal obligations or accessing critical public services

The regulations include powers to:

  • enable Police Scotland to enforce restrictions on movement of people outside their place of residence and to disperse gatherings. This includes the ability to remove people who are outside their home without a reasonable excuse if the police officer has reason to believe it is a necessary and proportionate means of ensuring compliance

Update on benefits during Covid-19 outbreak

Priority will be to deliver Scottish Child Payment

The majority of Social Security Scotland staff are now working from home to support efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19. The delivery of existing benefits continues with applications being received, processed and payments being made.

On benefits due to be introduced from this year, the Cabinet Secretary advised that, although they were on track to deliver these benefits, plans have had to change as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

The Scottish Government, DWP, local authorities and health and social care practitioners – who are all required to develop and deliver these benefits – are currently focused on the response and recovery from COVID-19. As a result, the introduction of Child Disability Payment and the Scottish Government’s replacement for Personal Independence Payments will be delayed. UK Ministers have agreed that they will continue to deliver disability benefits to Scottish clients over a longer transition period. 

Scottish Child Payment, which was due to be introduced from this autumn, will also be delayed. The Scottish Government will focus its resources to deliver this as soon as practicably possible. The aim is to start taking applications by the end of 2020 with payments being made from 2021, subject to sufficient staff being in place.

Ms Somerville said: “Our priority is maintaining our front-line services and delivering the seven benefits we have in place to support low income families, carers and people facing a bereavement.

“The Scottish Government, DWP, local authorities and – importantly – our health and social care services are focused on responding to the ongoing pandemic. We also need to factor in that there will likely be further impact on Scottish Government and partner organisations staffing levels due to illness or caring responsibilities.

“As such, I have had to take the difficult decision to halt the introduction of disability benefits that were due within the coming year.

“While I cannot make guarantees around a revised timeline for the introduction of these benefits, I can guarantee that the work will not stop. And I will provide an update to timelines as soon as I am able to do so.

“We will prioritise delivering the Scottish Child Payment and we will do everything humanly possible to deliver this payment as soon as practicably possible. This new payment will play a major part in tackling child poverty, helping those who may be facing even more hardship as a result of coronavirus, and our remaining resources will be directed at that.”

Background

As per announcement in March, children due to turn 16 will continue to receive DLA Child in Scotland up to the age of 18 – https://news.gov.scot/news/16-year-olds-will-no-longer-need-to-apply-for-pip-in-scotland

Support for victims of domestic abuse during the Covid-19 outbreak

31/03/20

The safety and well-being of women and children who are at risk of experiencing violence during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is being supported with funds for key organisations.

Grants from the Scottish Government’s £350 million Communities Fund have been made to Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland to ensure that access to these key support services is maintained and victims still have access to methods of reporting crimes during the crisis, including using online video platforms, text messaging and phone calls.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“We want women and children experiencing domestic abuse in the home to know that although they may feel isolated and vulnerable during these unprecedented times, they are not alone.

“Anyone experiencing violence, including coercive and controlling behaviours, should not feel in any way inhibited by the current coronavirus outbreak to report a crime against them.  

“These are enormously difficult times, but the safety of women and child victims who experience  abuse in the home is paramount – the message to stay at home does not mean that they should not seek urgent help, advice or support.

“As the anniversary of the Domestic Abuse Scotland Act 2018 approaches, it is a priority now as ever that victims of domestic abuse and gender based violence have access to support services, and that support organisations and frontline staff, who work tirelessly to provide these vital services, are supported to deliver new ways of working in these unprecedented times.

“The Scottish Government will continue to prioritise ensuring that the health, safety and wellbeing needs of women and children experiencing domestic abuse and gender based violence are met. If you are experiencing abuse – please do not feel you have wait to receive vital support. This is available now.

Further information:

Scotland’s 24hr Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline is available on 0800 027 1234.

Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline is available on 08088 01 03 02. Calls to this number are free. Or email support@rapecrisisscotland.org.uk or text 07537 410027.

Scottish Women’s Aid will receive £1.35 million over six months.

Rape Crisis Scotland will receive £226,309 over six months.

The Scottish Government has provided an additional £825,000 to Police Scotland to support the training of officers and frontline staff to respond to and investigate the new domestic abuse offence.