Sturgeon warns national lockdown could be imposed if Christmas shoppers flout travel ban

Dan Sanderson
·3 min read
Non-essential shops have been shut across the west of Scotland - but are open for business in the capital
Non-essential shops have been shut across the west of Scotland - but are open for business in the capital

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that she is prepared to impose a national lockdown if shoppers in the West of the country flout lockdown restrictions by travelling in large numbers to Edinburgh to do Christmas shopping.

on Friday, tier four restrictions in 11 council areas, affecting more than two million people in west and central Scotland, came into force meaning the closure of non-essential shops while pubs, restaurants, cafes, gyms and hairdressers have also been forced to temporarily shut.

While there is a legal ban on non-essential travel out of tier three or four council areas, police have said this will not be pro-actively enforced, raising the prospect of people taking the 50 minute train journey from Glasgow to Edinburgh, which is not in the highest level, to visit businesses that remain open in the capital.

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she believed people would stick to the rules, but raised the prospect of bringing in harsher measures if they did not.

Nicola Sturgeon issued the warning to Christmas shoppers on Friday -  Jeff J Mitchell/PA
Nicola Sturgeon issued the warning to Christmas shoppers on Friday - Jeff J Mitchell/PA

“If we can’t though maintain a tiered approach, then as England is doing already, we would have to consider having the same level of restrictions across the whole country,” she said.

“I am being very open with people that if we want to keep this targeted, proportionate approach, travel restrictions are a key part of that. People should abide by them as I believe they will.”

She added: “Shop online for the next three weeks if you can to get things that are not available in essential shops. But do not, if you live in Glasgow, travel to Edinburgh to go shopping because not only would you be breaking the law in doing that, you’ll be risking taking the virus from Glasgow to Edinburgh and putting people in Edinburgh at risk.

“It sounds harsh, it sounds blunt, but given what we face right now I feel it’s important for me to be blunt and straight with people.”

Those who break the travel restrictions could face £60 fines, however, police have said that they will not be routinely checking travellers. Officers who come into contact with rule breakers in the course of their normal duties will be trusted to use their discretion over whether to issue fines, the national force has said.

Police sources told The Daily Telegraph that in practice, they believed the only time fines would be issued were when people were caught "by accident", for example if they committed other offences such as drink driving, and did not have a valid excuse to be out of their local areas.

While Ms Sturgeon has previously announced short-term restrictions only to later extend them, she insisted repeatedly that the lockdowns in tier four areas would definitely be lifted after three weeks.

She said: "The fact is the fewer people who have Covid by the time we get to Christmas, the lower the risk of people being infected with it during that period."

The stricter rules that came into force yesterday affect 2.3 million people across East Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire, North and South Lanarkshire, East and South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.

Yesterday, there were reports of large crowds at shops, as well as at businesses such as hairdressers which will also have to close, ahead of the restrictions coming into force.

The Scottish Retail Consortium has warned that stores forced to close would collectively miss out on £90m per week in lost sales.

David Lonsdale, the organisation’s director, said: “There is little evidence shuttering shops does much to suppress the spread of Covid, but it’s undeniable closing high street stores in November and into December during the critical Christmas trading period is a hammer-blow to hard-pressed retailers. This is the worst possible time to close these stores.”