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Scotland's lockdown to be eased from May 28 but Nicola Sturgeon says schools won't return until August

Schools will not be returning until August 11. Credit: PA

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a “careful relaxation” of lockdown measures from Thursday, May 28.

The gradual easing of restrictions will allow non-contact sports, such as golf and tennis, and meeting people from “one other household” outside and while social distancing will be permitted.

But schools will not return until August 11 - with the start of a new school year.

Garden centres and waste and recycling facilities will also be allowed to open as part of phase one of the route map.

The construction industry will be allowed to resume and any workplaces permitted to return in phase two will be able to prepare for the return of staff during the first phase.

Despite the relaxing of the rules, Ms Strurgeon stressed people should stay at home "as much as possible" and those that can work at home should continue to do so, unveiling "test and protect" as a "crucial tool in controlling virus".

She also said employers should consider flexible working weeks, raising the idea of four days weeks as a possibility.

  • ITV News Scotland correspondent Peter Smith on Scotland's 'bubble model' that allows households to meet outside

The First Minister also said a “phased resumption” of aspects of the criminal justice system will take place, along with a gradual restart of NHS services, such as cancer screenings, which were paused as a result of the outbreak.

Ms Sturgeon applied caution to measures set out in the route map, telling MSPs that the proposals set out on Thursday “cannot be set in stone”.

Although the R number in Scotland has come down to below 1 from a high of 4, the range has not changed this week and "may also still be slightly above other parts of the UK," she said.

The golf course at St Andrews. Non-contact sports like golf will be allowed again in phase 1. Credit: PA

While people in England are allowed to travel to any beach or beauty spot regardless of distance, Ms Sturgeon asked people in Scotland to stay local and asked the public to cycle or walk where possible.

Scotland's first phase was broadly in line with the proposals outlined by Boris Johnson on May 10, but Ms Sturgeon diverted sharply from England's decision to reopen schools from June 1, announcing that schools in Scotland would remain closed until August 11, with children returning to a “blended model of part-time in-school and part-time at-home learning”.

  • What does Scotland's phase 1 of easing lockdown restrictions look like?

Teachers and other school staff will go back in June to prepare classrooms for the new term, the First Minister told MSPs.

People in Scotland will be also allowed to see family and friends again, including in private gardens, unlike in England where the rule is just one person from each household and only in a public outdoor space.

The First Minister stressed the new measures were not currently in place, and said that there is a chance the stricter measures could be reapplied if the spread of the virus increases.

She said: “I hope they will bring some improvement to people’s wellbeing and quality of life, start to get our economy moving again, and start to steer us safely towards a new normality.

“It’s important to stress, though, that while the permitted reasons to be out of your house will increase, the default message during phase one will remain ‘Stay at Home’ as much as possible.”