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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 20/04/2021

Further relaxation of restrictions across Scotland

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has confirmed that tourist accommodation and hospitality venues can begin to reopen as planned from Monday 26 April. Scotland will move into level three and will see a significant reopening of the Scottish economy.

It’s then expected that all of Scotland will move to level two on Monday 17 May. That means, for example, that from that date, people will be able to meet in small numbers in each other’s homes, hospitality will reopen more fully, and outdoor contact sport for adults will resume.

Then, if circumstances permit, the First Minister confirmed that we will move to level one on Monday 7 June, before moving to level zero by the end of that month.

Tourism and hospitality guidance

From Monday 26 April:

  • Tourist accommodation can reopen. However, in self-catering accommodation, the rules on indoor meetings still apply. This means that, until 17 May, two households cannot stay in the same accommodation.
  • Hospitality venues like cafés, pubs and restaurants can reopen. In outdoor settings, opening hours will be determined by local licensing laws.
  • Alcohol can be served outdoors, and people will be able to meet in groups of up to six, from up to six different households.
  • Cafés, pubs and restaurants can serve indoors until 8pm – but they are not yet able serve alcohol.
  • Up to six people will be allowed to meet indoors – however they must come from a maximum of two households. (This applies to hospitality venues not private houses.)
  • The requirements on physical distancing for hospitality have not changed from those in place previously.
  • Venues must now take down contact details for all of their customers – rather than simply for the lead member of each household.
  • It will be possible to collect takeaway food indoors – rather than having to collect it from a hatch or window.
  • The attendance limit at funerals and weddings – and related events such as receptions – will increase from 20 to 50.
  • Indoor attractions and public buildings, such as galleries, museums and libraries, can reopen.
  • Remaining travel restrictions will be lifted on 26 April for travel anywhere in Scotland, and for travel between Scotland, England and Wales.

The Scottish Government has now published updated guidance for tourism and hospitality. Make sure you check out the FAQ section, which has a host of further, useful information. Read the guidance.

Physical distancing

Social distancing rules for hospitality premises have not changed since the sector was allowed to reopen in 2020. The sector is allowed to operate at one metre instead of two metre as an acknowledgment that they are unviable as businesses if two metres is maintained. 

Premises must now however signpost their ‘maximum capacity’ by displaying this alongside signage indicating that customers are ‘entering a one metre’. The capacity will likely be the same as identified in premise risk assessments last year. 

This could be calculated in the following way: once all tables are laid out (maximum six to a table, not including children) in line with requirements, operators should calculate the number of customers which can be seated. This figure then becomes the Physical Distance Based Capacity (PDBC) and is displayed at entrances. It is likely, that when parties with more than one household are in a venue, that the capacity would be reduced but this does not require the PDBC be updated. 

Due to some misinformation circulating, it is important to note: 

  • There are no rules on table sizes. 
  • Social distancing rules for hospitality remain as they were last year.
  • Groups from different households can sit at the same table but should be socially distanced from those in other households.

Read the Scottish Government guidance.

Multi-sector guidance on collection of customer and visitor contact details

The Scottish Government has updated this guidance, in advance of reopenings during spring 2021, to request the collection of the name and contact details for every visitor to premises, to create consistency across the range of settings where this is requested or mandated in Scotland, and at the same time ensure that relevant data is captured to assist the Test and Protect contact tracing service.

Read the Test and Protect guidance.

Travel restrictions

From 16 April we have all been able to travel freely throughout Scotland (with no overnight stays). It has been confirmed all remaining travel restrictions will be lifted on 26 April for travel anywhere in Scotland, and for travel between Scotland, England and Wales.

The Scottish Government will also remove restrictions on travel to and from Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man - though people should check the rules on entry to each of those territories before they travel.

International travel for non-essential purposes is not yet permitted. The Scottish Government is continuing to work with the UK government to agree a common approach to international travel after 17 May. Until 17 May – and possibly for a period after that – you should not be leaving the UK for non-essential purposes.

Pre-departure coronavirus testing

To reduce the risk of coronavirus being brought into island communities by people who are unaware they are infectious, the Scottish Government is encouraging anyone planning to travel to a Scottish island to test before they do so. 

People can order rapid lateral flow tests for delivery to their home anywhere in the UK and they should arrive within 24 - 48 hours. The Scottish Government recommends that people test three days before they plan to travel and then again on the day of departure.  If they test positive, this will allow the person to self-isolate before they begin their journey.   

Please note that if a test result is negative, this is not a guarantee that they do not have coronavirus.  People must continue to follow national and local restrictions, including FACTS guidance.  If they develop coronavirus symptoms they must self-isolate and book a PCR test.

This is a voluntary scheme and visitors will not need evidence of a negative test to travel to a Scottish island.  However, the Scottish Government would encourage that people do participate in order to reduce the risk that they inadvertently carry coronavirus into one of our island communities.   

Pre-departure testing covers travel to all Scottish islands. For more information go to:

Face coverings guidance

Updated guidance on face coverings and face masks has been published. It explains where you need to wear a face covering and exemptions from wearing one.

The guidance includes information on face coverings in the workplace and additional information for businesses or operators carrying out close contact work.

Further information

Read the full statement from the First Minister.

Updated Strategic Framework Protection Level tables can be downloaded at Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels - (