Nicola Sturgeon set to defy PM by keeping masks mandatory in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon is set to defy ‘populist’ Boris Johnson by keeping face masks mandatory in Scotland even if lockdown easing goes ahead on July 19

  • Nicola Sturgeon is confirming today if lockdown easing goes ahead in Scotland
  • Restrictions north of the border are scheduled to fall to ‘Level 0’ from Monday
  • Ms Sturgeon has already indicated that masks will still be compulsory for Scots 

Nicola Sturgeon looks set to defy Boris Johnson by keeping masks mandatory in Scotland after July 19 even if an easing goes ahead.

The SNP leader is due to confirm today whether restrictions north of the border will be lowered to ‘Level 0’ from Monday as planned.

But there are fears that soaring coronavirus rates and the growing number of people ending up in hospital has put the timetable risk.

And Ms Sturgeon has already made clear that face coverings will continue, swiping at Boris Johnson ‘throwing caution to the wind’ by making them optional in England and insisting she will put safety above ‘popularity’. 

The PM declared last night that ‘Freedom Day’ will go ahead on schedule next Monday, with almost all legal restrictions axed despite the surge caused by the Delta variant. 

However, he did plead with people in England to be cautious, with guidance saying they are ‘expected and recommended’ to wear masks in crowded places.


Nicola Sturgeon (left) looks set to defy Boris Johnson (right) by keeping masks mandatory in Scotland after July 19 even if the lockdown easing goes ahead 

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the SNP Government had to stick to the route map by easing restrictions on July 19. 

He said the public were fed up with uncertainty and that going back on a pledge to end lockdown on August 9 could also backfire.

Mr Ross said: ‘The SNP cannot stall Scotland’s progress any longer. We have to keep moving forward and that means moving Scotland to Level 0 next week.’

Professor of public health at Edinburgh University Linda Bauld told BBC radio’s Good Morning Scotland: ‘What I’m expecting to hear from the information I have that’s publicly available, is we will proceed to Level 0 on July 19.

‘The situation, although still fragile, does seem to be showing some signs of being certainly sustainable, as in we’re able to cope with it.

‘We may well be past the peak… I’m hoping what we’re seeing is a consistent trend.

‘What the Scottish Government will want to avoid is what is happening in Europe now.

‘The Netherlands has seen an over 700 per cent increase in cases. They’ve had to close nightclubs again, put restrictions on bars and restaurants, they’ve had to cancel mass events.

‘I think the Scottish Government will want to continue to move forward, but Level 0 is not a huge jump, it’s a relatively modest jump to the next stage.’

At a briefing last week, Ms Sturgeon warned ‘we cannot simply throw all caution to the wind and no longer worry at all about rising levels of infection’, citing concerns about pressures on the NHS which have already led to some services being cut back.

She also said the majority of cases are in young people and although they tend to have less severe infections, it would be ‘wrong and irresponsible, because our young people are not guinea pigs, to have no concern at all for young people infected with this virus’.

Ms Sturgeon said she hoped all of Scotland will be able to move to ‘Level 0’ restrictions by July 19 as planned. But that meant ‘baseline’ restrictions such as masks, rather than a total unlocking.  

The PM declared last night that ‘Freedom Day’ will go ahead on schedule next Monday, with almost all legal restrictions axed despite the surge caused by the Delta variant

She said: ‘It is worth pointing out the path the UK Government is embarking on for England – which is entirely a matter for them – a path of not just lifting all restrictions from July 19 but also removing the requirement for basic mitigations like face masks, and doing so against the backdrop of sharply increasing case numbers, is something of an exception.

‘While I totally understood the desire some have for us to follow suit in every single step, we have to think carefully about the steps we do take at this juncture.

‘My job is not to take the easy decisions in a quest for popularity, it is to do what I think is most likely to keep the country as safe as possible as we get to the end of the vaccination programme.

‘Over the next few weeks, as we complete the vaccination programme, it is really important that we don’t let the virus outrun us.’ 

Ms Sturgeon said Scots getting confused by the messages from England ‘has always been a worry’ – saying it was one of the main reasons she did daily TV briefings earlier in the pandemic. 

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