Fans to return to Scottish stadiums from Monday, Sturgeon confirms

11 January 2022, 17:41

Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

Football fans and other sports spectators will be allowed back into Scottish stadiums from Monday after Nicola Sturgeon lifted some of her post-Christmas Covid restrictions.

The current 500-person cap on outdoor events will go - allowing premiership games to restart in front of capacity crowds, and giving the green light to the Six Nations rugby tournament fixtures at Murrayfield.

However organisers will now be expected to check at least 50%, rather than 20%, of attendees' vaccine passports - which must also include the booster jab - or those of 1000 people whichever is greater.

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And the requirement to wear face coverings in indoor public places and to work from home when possible, will remain in place with Scots still also advised to limit contact with people in other households.

The news of a slight change was overshadowed by a row around government leaks, with Holyrood’s presiding officer demanding Nicola Sturgeon assure her of her respect for the Scottish Parliament - and the First Minister announcing an investigation into how her statement had been given to the media in advance of MSPs being told. 

Scottish Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr complained to the Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone, that both the education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville had yesterday "announced several significant updates on school exams on Twitter" and "substantive changes contained within today’s Covid 19 statement were leaked to the media ahead of its delivery in parliament."

He added: "This has become common practice for the SNP government and I’ve raised it with you on each occasion… what steps can now be taken to end this contempt and insist the Scottish Government respects your good office and the Scottish Parliament?"

Ms Johnstone, who had previously reprimanded ministers for similar leaks, threatening not to allow them to then make their statement and instead go straight to questions from opposition MSPs, said: “"I am aware that details of today’s Covid-19 update have been reported in the media prior to being announced to the Parliament."

I should not be reading in the media that they have seen a draft copy of the statement before it has been made to this Parliament. This is extremely disappointing and is disrespectful to this Parliament and its elected Members.

"I have spoken to the Minister for Parliamentary Business about this and he has informed me that the Government will be undertaking an inquiry into the leak."

She added: "Now I will allow this statement to be delivered today because I cannot be assured that all elected members have seen the full draft and also that it's important that the public hear the full detail. 

"But I ask for an assurance from the First Minister of her commitment to the place of this Parliament being respected by her government and her commitment to a repeat of this situation being avoided."

Nicola Sturgeon said she would give that assurance.

"Aside from disrespect to parliament, which is a very serious matter, let me also assure you there is no benefit or advantage to the Scottish Government of the content of these statements being known in advance of me delivering them to the Scottish Parliament," she said.

"I have asked my officials to look into this matter and the Scottish Government’s chief information security officer will be undertaking appropriate inquiries to establish if there has been a leak. And if so what the circs and source of that are."

She said she would keep the PO updated on that inquiry.

Ms Sturgeon went on to say that outdoor restrictions were being removed, but the vaccine passport scheme strengthened.

"I can confirm today that the attendance limit of 500 at large-scale outdoor events will be lifted from Monday January 17," she said.

"That means, for example, that spectators will be permitted again at major outdoor sporting events, including football fixtures scheduled for early next week, and the forthcoming Six Nations rugby matches."

Ms Sturgeon also said consideration must be made of long-term adaptations that must be made to allow Scots to "live with" Covid.

A revised framework for dealing with the virus will be released in the coming weeks, following input from parliament and business organisations.

In a marked change of language to previous speeches, she said: "This is intended to set out how we might adapt, medium to longer term, to living with the virus in a way that still mitigates the harm it does but without the kind of restrictive measures that we are all tired of and which do harm in other ways.

"Living with the virus is what we all desperately want to do."

She added: "We know that we cannot continually rely on restrictive measures to manage the virus."But equally we cannot be indifferent to the continued risks the virus poses to health and wellbeing.

"So we need to consider what adaptations we can make to manage these risks in a way that is much less disruptive to our lives and much less of a daily presence in our minds."

The removal of further restrictions in Scotland will also be considered in the next week but limits on indoor events, table service in hospitality and social distancing in public places will remain until at least January 24.

Ms Sturgeon also said that the Scottish Government would continue to consider if the vaccine passport scheme should be extended to include other venues.

She added: "The situation in Scotland just now is undoubtedly serious but perhaps less so than it might have been, and there are also some signs that we may be starting to turn a corner.”