Nicola Sturgeon says people can hug loved ones from Monday

Emotional Nicola Sturgeon announces people in Scotland will be allowed to hug loved ones again from Monday as she follows Boris Johnson’s lead but urges Scots to ‘use careful judgement’ and limit the number of people they have physical contact with

  • Nicola Sturgeon said that people in Scotland can hug loved ones from Monday
  • Almost all of mainland Scotland to move from Level 3 to Level 2 from next week 
  • Her announcements came after the PM yesterday confirmed England changes  

An emotional Nicola Sturgeon today announced that people in Scotland will be allowed to hug their loved ones again from Monday next week. 

The Scottish First Minister said rules on physical contact will be eased to allow people to hug friends and family when in a private house or garden. 

A review will take place over the next three weeks to determine whether the restrictions could be eased in other settings. 

However, Ms Sturgeon urged Scots to ‘use careful judgement’ as she warned ‘close physical contact does still carry risk’. 

She suggested people should avoid hugging loved ones who may be vulnerable and to ‘limit the overall number of people that you are choosing to have close physical contact with’. 

The move was one of a number of rules to be loosened by Ms Sturgeon as she said almost all of mainland Scotland will move from Level 3 to Level 2 of coronavirus restrictions on May 17. 

Her announcement came one day after Boris Johnson announced hugging will be allowed among friends and family in England from the same date.     

An emotional Nicola Sturgeon today announced that people in Scotland will be allowed to hug their loved ones again from Monday next week.

Her announcement came one day after Boris Johnson announced hugging will be allowed among friends and family in England from the same date

Her announcement came one day after Boris Johnson announced hugging will be allowed among friends and family in England from the same date

Addressing a coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘From Monday if you are meeting friends and family, within the permitted limits of course, either indoors in a private dwelling, a house or in your garden, our guidance will say that it is no longer necessary to maintain physical distancing.

‘Which means, and I actually feel a wee bit emotional saying this, that from Monday as long as you stay within permitted limits you can hug your loved ones again.

‘I know how desperate we all are for this so I don’t intend to immediately pour cold water on it, don’t worry, but there are two further points I really need to make.

‘Firstly, it remains vital to be cautious and to ease these restrictions carefully so for the next three weeks at least the easing of the guidance on physical distancing will apply to permitted gatherings in our own homes and gardens only.

‘However, over that period we will also be conducting a wider review of the need for physical distancing in public indoor places and we will set out the conclusions of that at the next review point.

‘And secondly, and this is perhaps the more difficult point, please use careful judgement.

‘Close physical contact does still carry risk, I have got to be very clear with you about that, so if you have loved ones who are vulnerable for any reason, please still be careful and limit the overall number of people that you are choosing to have close physical contact with.’

Ms Sturgeon also announced that people will be able to meet outdoors in groups of eight from up to eight households rather than the groups of six from six households currently. 

Meeting inside a private home will also be allowed again, including overnight stays as all of mainland Scotland, with the ‘highly probable’ exception of Moray, will move from Level 3 to Level 2. 

Moray is expected to remain in Level 3 following a surge in coronavirus cases and an increase in hospital admissions. 

Ms Sturgeon said the success of the vaccination programme and adherence to lockdown rules allowed her to ease restrictions. 

‘It means firstly that we will be able to meet outdoors in groups of eight from up to eight households rather than in groups of six from six households as is the case now,’ she said. 

‘And even more significantly we will be able from Monday to meet in each other’s homes and that includes for overnight stays.

‘Now, it was initially intended that at level 2 up to four people from no more than two households could meet indoors.

‘However, we consider that it is possible now to go slightly further than that so from Monday up to six people from three households will be able to meet indoors in each other’s houses.

‘This is still a cautious change but it is also a hugely important one. It is almost eight months now since most of us have been able to meet in each other’s homes and it has been even longer than that for those of us living in Glasgow and Lanarkshire.’

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Scots battle through SNOW to vote in crunch Holyrood elections

Scots are battling through snow to vote in crucial elections today with Nicola Sturgeon’s separatist push on a knife edge.

The bitter battle for Holyrood has entered the final straight after the Tories pleaded for people to ‘lend’ their support to stop the SNP’s drive for independence.

Experts say Ms Sturgeon’s chances of an overall majority look to be 50-50 after a slew of contradictory polls – some showing her party will lose seats, others suggesting they will gain ground.

The First Minister has made triggering a fresh referendum, potentially as early as this year, the centrepiece of her manifesto.

But she has been forced to back away from her sabre-rattling during the campaign, as evidence mounts that Scottish support for breaking up the UK is dwindling.

In the final TV debate Ms Sturgeon admitted that she will not go ahead with an illegal ‘wildcat’ ballot if Boris Johnson refuses permission.     

Nicola Sturgeon (pictured voting in Glasgow this morning) has made triggering a fresh referendum, potentially as early as this year, the centrepiece of her manifesto

Some voters had to battle snowy conditions to get to their polling station, with wintry weather in parts of the north amid a Met Office yellow weather warning for snow across much of the Highlands, Grampian and down towards the central belt. Pictured, Daviot near Inverness

Some voters had to battle snowy conditions to get to their polling station, with wintry weather in parts of the north amid a Met Office yellow weather warning for snow across much of the Highlands, Grampian and down towards the central belt. Pictured, Daviot near Inverness

Scottish Labour, under new leader Anas Sarwar (pictured voting with his family in Glasgow today), is hoping it can make gains and start to reverse the decline in fortunes the party has suffered in more recent years

Scottish Labour, under new leader Anas Sarwar (pictured voting with his family in Glasgow today), is hoping it can make gains and start to reverse the decline in fortunes the party has suffered in more recent years

The ravages of the pandemic means there is set to be an agonising wait to find out the verdict of voters north of the border. 

It might not even be until Sunday that the results are finalised, with counts dramatically slower than usual. 

 Polling stations opened at 7am on Thursday and will close at 10pm, in an election which could be crucial in determining Scotland’s future within the UK.

Some voters had to battle snowy conditions to get to their polling station, with wintry weather in parts of the north amid a Met Office yellow weather warning for snow across much of the Highlands, Grampian and down towards the central belt.

The SNP is certain to stay the largest party in the 129-seat Scottish Parliament.

Elections guru Professor Sir John Curtice has said there are nine ‘knife-edge constituencies’ which will be key in this.

These are seats held by the Tories or Labour, but where Ms Sturgeon’s party would need a swing of five points or less to claim them.

The SNP, like all parties fighting in the election, has also been seeking to maximise its votes in the regional list ballot.

But as it won just four of its 63 MSPs on the list last time round, it is more likely that these votes will be crucial in determining the other big question in this Holyrood election campaign – who will come second.

Scottish Labour, under new leader Anas Sarwar, is hoping it can make gains and start to reverse the decline in fortunes the party has suffered in more recent years.

But the Scottish Conservatives, which became the second largest party in the Parliament at the 2016 election, will be hoping leader Douglas Ross can repeat the success that Ruth Davidson, who is quitting Holyrood for the House of Lords, had five years ago when the party won a record 31 seats.

The Scottish Conservatives urged pro-Union voters to lend them their votes on the regional list ballot paper. On the final day of campaigning, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross highlighted this message during visits to East Lothian, Stirling, Inverness and Moray.

Tory candidate for Glasgow, Annie Wells, said: ‘Over the last week alone, 11 polls show the Scottish Conservatives are the only party who can stop an SNP majority and stop another referendum, so that our parliament can focus 100 per cent on rebuilding Scotland. 

‘Poll after poll shows Labour are on course for their worst Holyrood result ever. Not one poll shows them stopping an SNP majority.

‘If just a few more pro-UK voters lend their peach party list vote to the Scottish Conservatives, even if it’s only this one time, we can stop that SNP majority, stop Indyref 2 and secure Scotland’s recovery.’

Scots Tory leader Douglas Ross and former leader Ruth Davidson (pictured yesterday) have been pleading for people to lend them votes to stop the independence drive

Scots Tory leader Douglas Ross and former leader Ruth Davidson (pictured yesterday) have been pleading for people to lend them votes to stop the independence drive

In a message to pro-UK voters, Pamela Nash of the Scotland in Union campaign group said: ‘At this election vote for Scotland’s priorities, not the SNP’s. Vote to prioritise our NHS, jobs, schools and the climate – not another divisive independence referendum.’

The other parties at Holyrood are also hoping to make gains, with polls indicating the Scottish Greens could have their best ever result this time round.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that they can also win more seats.

And just as coronavirus has impacted the election campaign, it will also affect the time it takes for all the votes to be counted.

The need for social distancing, with fewer staff able to physically count the ballot papers, means there will be no overnight counts.

Votes will instead start being counted at 9am on Friday, with some of the constituency seats declared later on the same day.

The results of the remaining constituencies, along with the results of the eight regional list areas, should be declared on Saturday, but there is an outside chance it could drag on to Sunday.

Scotland on knife edge as election eve poll finds SNP faces LOSING seats and missing out on majority

Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP could miss out on an overall majority at Holyrood in Thursday’s elections amid a surge in support for the union in Scotland, a new poll suggested today.

A poll by Savanta suggests the First Minister could lose four seats to fall six seats short of control of the Scottish Parliament.

The same firm also found a majority of support for remaining in the Union if there was a second Scottish independence referendum.

Falling short of the 65 MSPs required for an outright majority would leave Ms Sturgeon needing another coalition with the pro-independence Greens and show how a bitter row with former boss Alex Salmond has hit the party’s ambitions.

However the news was tempered by more polls in Scotland today which suggest the SNP could achieve a narrow majority.

Both YouGov and Survation have an outright SNP majority, by three seats and just one seat respectively.

It sets the stage for a dramatic vote on Thursday that will set the direction of travel in Scottish politics for the next five years. 

However the polls are a blow for Mr Salmond. Only YouGov show his new Alba Party picking up any seats, and it predicts just a single one from the list vote. 

It came as Boris Johnson today reaffirmed his opposition to holding a new independence vote in Scotland. 

The polls are a blow for Mr Salmond. Only YouGov show his new Alba Party picking up any seats, and it predicts just a single one from the list vote.

The polls are a blow for Mr Salmond. Only YouGov show his new Alba Party picking up any seats, and it predicts just a single one from the list vote.

Speaking to broadcasters in the West Midlands today (pictured) Mr Johnson said: 'This is not the time to have a reckless and I think irresponsible second referendum'

Speaking to broadcasters in the West Midlands today (pictured) Mr Johnson said: ‘This is not the time to have a reckless and I think irresponsible second referendum’

How does the Holyrood election work? 

On May 6 Scots will be electing 129 MSPs for Holyrood.

But unlike at Westminster, there is a form of proportional representation to decide who gets the seats. 

There are two routes for MSPs to be elected, with each voter having two ballots to cast.

Specific ‘constituency’ MSPs are returned to represent the 73 constituencies in Scotland.

Those are ‘first past the post’ contests, the same as Westminster elections.

The second ballot is used to elect 56 ‘list’ members. 

Each of the eight Parliamentary regions returns seven MSPs. 

But in this instance, voters back parties rather than candidates. 

The parties are then allocated a number of ‘list’ MSPs on the basis of their support – and they have a list of candidates by priority to take the seats.

The aim is to make the result more proportional.  

Speaking to broadcasters in the West Midlands he said: ‘This is not the time to have a reckless and I think irresponsible second referendum. 

‘We had one only a few years ago. I think that most people want us to focus on the country and take it forward and rebuild our economy and get people back into work.’ 

The Savanta ComRes poll for The Scotsman projects the SNP will secure 42 per cent of the constituency vote and 34 per cent of the list vote.

This would see it return 59 MSPs, four below the 2016 result, with 65 needed for a majority.

However, there would still be a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament as the Scottish Greens are projected to return nine MSPs, three more than in 2016, with 9 per cent of the list vote.

The poll found support for Scottish independence is split, with 50 per cent saying they would vote No if a referendum were held tomorrow, 42 per cent Yes and the remaining 8 per cent said they do not know.

When those who are undecided are excluded, support for the union is at 54 per cent and backing for independence at 46 per cent.

The poll projects the Scottish Conservatives will return 30 MSPs, one down on 2016, with 25 per cent of the constituency vote and 23 per cent of the list vote.

Scottish Labour is predicted to return 26 MSPs, two more than five years ago, with 22 per cent of the constituency and 19 per cent of the list vote.

According to the poll, the Scottish Lib Dems will secure 8 per cent of the constituency and 6 per cent of the list vote which would see them return five MSPs, no change on 2016.

Alex Salmond’s Alba Party would return no MSPs, according to the poll of 1,001 Scottish adults aged 18 or over which was carried out between April 30 and May 4.

It comes after a survey for The Times, published on Tuesday evening, suggested the SNP is set for a four-seat majority.

The final study by YouGov for The Times of 1,144 Scots, released just hours before the last televised debate, put the SNP on 52 per cent in the constituency and 38 per cent on the regional list, and suggests the Scottish Greens will take 13 per cent of the regional vote.

It also found 45 per cent of people would vote Yes in a referendum on Scottish independence while 55 per cent would vote No, when undecided voters are excluded.

Scotland operates a version of proportional representation, and Alba is only standing 'list' - or 'additional' MSP - candidates rather than running in the first-past-the-post constituency contests that could have inflicted more serious damage to the nationalists. Pollsters say that means it is more likely to hurt opposition parties, who typically end up with most of the list seats. The chart shows the result from the last Holyrood election in 2016

Scotland operates a version of proportional representation, and Alba is only standing ‘list’ – or ‘additional’ MSP – candidates rather than running in the first-past-the-post constituency contests that could have inflicted more serious damage to the nationalists. Pollsters say that means it is more likely to hurt opposition parties, who typically end up with most of the list seats. The chart shows the result from the last Holyrood election in 2016

Modelling by polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice has the SNP on 68 seats, a majority of four, while the Greens will take 13 seats, more than double their current haul of five.

The Alba Party would also pick up a seat after receiving 3 per cent of the vote, with the seat likely to come in the Mid Scotland and Fife region – where it received 7 per cent of the vote in the YouGov study.

A seat for Mr Salmond’s party would see Eva Comrie take her place in Holyrood among 81 other independence-supporting MSPs.

The Scottish Tories, according to the poll, are set to win 26 seats, down five from the last election, but will retain a tight hold on second place as Labour could drop to 17 seats – losing seven.

YouGov surveyed 1,144 people aged 16 or older between May 2 and May 4.

Meanwhile a poll for The Courier, by Survation, projects the SNP will return 66 MSPs and the Scottish Conservatives 24.

The poll, published on Wednesday, predicts Scottish Labour will secure 23 seats, the Scottish Greens will return 11 MSPs, the Scottish Lib Dems five and the Alba party none.

On the question of independence it found that 48 per cent would vote Yes to Scottish independence if a referendum on the issue were held tomorrow, while 52 per cent would vote No, when do not knows are excluded.

The Survation poll was based on responses from 1,008 adults in Scotland and was carried out between April 30 and May 4.

Commenting on The Times poll, SNP depute leader Keith Brown said the outcome of the election is on a ‘knife-edge’.

He said: ‘Anything less than both votes for the SNP risks leaving Scotland’s future in the hands of Boris Johnson and the Tories instead of the safe hands of Nicola Sturgeon.’

Nicola Sturgeon admits an independent Scotland in the EU WOULD mean a hard border with England

Nicola Sturgeon admits that Scottish independence WOULD mean a hard border with England if it rejoins the EU but claims businesses will not ‘suffer’

  • She said Scotland would try to negotiate arrangements to ‘keep trade flowing’ 
  • But unionists accused her of planning a ‘hammer blow’ for businesses  
  • Tories said SNP ‘are clueless about the economic impact of independence’

Nicola Sturgeon was under fire today after admitting today that an independent Scotland would have to have a hard border with England if it rejoins the EU.

But the First Minister claimed that cross-border businesses and trade would not ‘suffer’ because of it, as she appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme.

The SNP leader said Scotland would try to negotiate arrangements to ‘keep trade flowing easily across the border’ if it becomes independent and is successful at taking the country back into the EU.

Her comments sparked fury from unionists, who accused her of  planning to oversea actions that would be a ‘hammer blow’ for Scottish businesses.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: ‘By Nicola Sturgeon’s own admission, the SNP are clueless about the economic impact of independence.

The First Minister claimed that cross-border businesses and trade would not ‘suffer’ because of it, as she appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme

The SNP leader said Scotland would try to negotiate arrangements to 'keep trade flowing easily across the border' if it becomes independent and is successful at taking the country back into the EU.

The SNP leader said Scotland would try to negotiate arrangements to ‘keep trade flowing easily across the border’ if it becomes independent and is successful at taking the country back into the EU.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: 'By Nicola Sturgeon's own admission, the SNP are clueless about the economic impact of independence.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: ‘By Nicola Sturgeon’s own admission, the SNP are clueless about the economic impact of independence.

‘They’ve done no analysis on how many jobs it would put at risk or how much damage would be done to Scotland’s economy.

‘She floundered and didn’t have a single convincing answer to dispel the overwhelming evidence that separating Scotland from the rest of the UK would be devastating for jobs and businesses.’ 

Ms Sturgeon’s comments have echoes of those made by Boris Johnson while attempting to downplay the impact of his Brexit deal on trade with Northern Ireland.

The First Minister said an independent Scotland would ‘comply with all of the requirements of EU membership’ when asked about European Union regulations, customs checks and inspections of goods entering the single market.

She said: ‘We will put in place arrangements and we will negotiate those arrangements for the UK that means that businesses do not, in a practical sense, suffer from any of that.’

Under EU rules, consignments of animals and goods need to be physically inspected before entering the EU’s single market, including 30% of poultry, eggs, milk and fish, and all live animals.

Ms Sturgeon added: ‘I’m not denying that because of the absurdity of Brexit and the Tory Brexit obsession, then all sorts of issues are raised for Scotland completely against our democratic will.

‘What I’m saying is we will work as a country to make sure that for our businesses there is no difficulties in terms of their day-to-day experience in trading.’

She defended the absence of any analysis on the financial impact of independence and said it would be ‘to put the cart rather before the horse’ ahead of another vote.

‘Before we get to a point where we’re asking people to choose whether or not they want Scotland to become independent – which is the choice of the Scottish people – just as we did in 2014, we will set out all of the implications of independence, all of the advantages of independence, and all the practical issues that people have to consider so that people make an informed choice,’ she added. 

Following Ms Sturgeon’s interview, Labour’s shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray said: ‘With economists warning Scotland is headed for a jobs crisis it is reckless beyond imagining to call for a referendum during our recovery.

‘Hearing the casual way with which Nicola Sturgeon dismisses those independent experts that she is so fond of quoting when they agree with her and her failure to answer any of the tough questions on separation – from effects on income to the border – is playing fast and loose with people’s futures.

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