Pubs and restaurants in Scotland will have to wait another three weeks for any clarity on reopening, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has refused to “pick arbitrary dates” before more data becomes available.

In an announcement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday (23 February), Sturgeon said she would set out more detail for reopening in mid-march, though she revealed the majority of businesses will not be exiting lockdown, and re-entering its five-stage ‘level’ system, until 26 April.

If the data allows, Sturgeon said Government will look to accelerate its easing of restrictions, which will move forward in intervals of three weeks. She said it was her “hope and expectation” that stay at home restrictions would be lifted by 5 April, at which point Government will look to ease restrictions on household gatherings and expand the definition of ‘essential’ retail.

“From the 26 April, assuming the data allows, we will move back to levels, with hopefully all of Scotland moving to level three, albeit with some possible modifications,” she said. “And at that stage we will begin to reopen the economy and society in the more substantial way that we’re all longing for.”

Ahead of time, Sturgeon has promised continued support for businesses when they enter the transition towards full reopening. She said that when local authorities are able to move down a level and businesses can reopen, they will continue to receive financial support for at least four weeks, and those facing reduced demand and restrictions may be legible for tapered support.

“I want to give as much clarity as possible today, while avoiding giving false assurance, or picking arbitrary dates that have no grounding at this stage in any objective assessment,” she said. “I am as confident as I can be that the indicative staged timetable that I’ve set out from now until late April, when the economy will start to substantially reopen, is a reasonable one.

“In mid-March when we have made further progress on vaccines and have a greater understanding of the impacts of the initial phases of school return, I will be able to set out more detail on the further reopening that will take place over April and May and into the summer.”