Addressing MSPs in Holyrood this afternoon (22 June), the First Minister confirmed what she hinted at last week that the plan to move the entire country to the lowest level of the country's five-tier system of Coronavirus restrictions on 28 June would not go ahead, and will instead be pushed back by three weeks in order to ensure more people can be vaccinated.
It means the next nationwide easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland is now scheduled to happen on the same day all remaining restrictions on social contact are set to be lifted in England.
Under Level 0, all curfew restrictions on hospitality businesses will be removed, and up to 10 people from four households will be able to mix in indoor settings.
It is also hoped that the general indoor physical distancing requirement will be reduced from two metres to one metre, with social contact limits in outdoor settings scrapped entirely.
While many island communities including Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are already in Level 0, all of Scotland's mainland is currently in either Level 2 or Level 1, which restricts hospitality to a curfew of either 10:30pm or 11pm respectively, and limits group numbers able to congregate indoors to either six or eight adults from two households.
Beyond 19 July, the First Minister announced that all major remaining restrictions, including the legal requirement to physically distance indoors, could be lifted in Scotland on 9 August.
She said: "The move beyond Level 0 will be a major milestone and it will signal a return to almost complete normality in our day to day lives."
The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), which comprises many of the country’s largest and best-known restaurant and bar businesses, has urged the First Minister to 'move up on jabs and down on levels' in order to get the economy fully open as soon as possible.
“While large numbers of people in Scotland have still not had their first vaccination, Scottish businesses are needlessly closing," says Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the SHG.
"We see mass vaccination programmes happening south of the border, we now need to see that happening in Scotland.”
SHG members have offered to close their businesses to enable staff to get vaccinated en masse at suitable times when vaccine centres may be less busy.
“If the Scottish Government can’t or won’t offer proper financial support for businesses that can’t trade viably, then mass vaccinations are the answer,” says Kenny Blair, managing director of Scottish hospitality chain Buzzworks.
“The majority of my team are under 25 and have not received a jab. They are the age-group that are now bearing the brunt of isolation. It not only means that they can’t work but is increases their anxiety, stress and ultimately their mental health.
“We would happily shut all of our premises for the day if that meant that we were adding another layer of protection both for our teams and our customers, so that our staff could get the jab.”