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Article published 29/03/2021

Timetable for planned phasing

The First Minister has set out how and when current coronavirus restrictions will be lifted over the next two months, with 26 April set as the date for reopening of the tourism industry to begin (should the data allow).

2 April

Lifting the ‘Stay at Home’ requirement and replacing it with a ‘Stay Local’ message. People across Scotland can make non-essential journeys in their local authority area. Restrictions on non-essential travel across local authority boundaries will remain in place.

People must stay within their council area for non-essential shopping and should only travel to another area for essential shopping if there are no practical alternatives. People should also continue to work from home where they can to prevent unnecessary contact that could risk transmission of the virus.

The rules you have to follow depend on the level in your local council area. Mainland Scotland and some islands are at level four with guidance to stay local. Some islands are at level three.  Take a look at the COVID protection levels.

5 April

Assuming all is well with the data, the next significant milestone for easing restrictions will see a wider range of current restrictions in level four areas ease, including extending the list of retail permitted.

The prohibition of in-home socialising will continue to be kept under review at this date.

26 April

Assuming the data allows it, a more significant reopening of the economy and society will begin. This will likely include some of the following:

  • extending outdoor socialising to permit up to six people from up to three households
  • travel within all of mainland Scotland permitted (subject to other restrictions that remain in place)
  • tourist accommodation to reopen (self-catering accommodation to be restricted in line with rules on indoor gathering)
  • outdoor hospitality to open until 10pm with alcohol permitted.
  • indoor hospitality permitted without alcohol and closing at 8pm
  • indoor attractions and public buildings such as libraries, museums, galleries re-open
  • weddings and funerals for up to 50 (including wakes and receptions with no alcohol permitted)
  • takeaway food can be collected indoors
  • remaining shops can re-open and mobile close contact services can resume
  • gyms can reopen for individual exercise
  • social mixing in indoor public places will be subject to current maximum of four people from up to two households
  • The prohibition of in-home socialising will continue to be kept under review at this date.

Some of these activities / settings are already permitted / open in Level three island communities. Discussions will be held with island communities already in lower levels on the possibility of having a faster return to more socialising and hospitality with restrictions on mainland travel to protect against importation of the virus.

17 May

From 17 May, it is hoped to introduce the following easings:

  • further re-opening of hospitality: bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes can stay open until 10.30pm indoors with alcohol permitted and two-hour dwell time, and until 10pm outdoors with alcohol permitted
  • small scale indoor and outdoor events can resume subject to capacity constraints (to be confirmed following stakeholder engagement)
  • up to four people from two households can socialise indoors in a private home or public space
  • cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls can re-open
  • non-professional performance arts can resume outdoors

The First Minister said the government would discuss with the aviation sector how and when some non-essential international travel could return, which would not be before Monday 17 May and may be some time later. She said requirements for pre-departure and post-arrival testing were likely to remain.


The coronavirus is unpredictable. It is therefore too early to give specific dates beyond May. However, it is understood that there is a need for people and businesses to plan and so, to give a broad sense of likely timings.

From the start of June it is hoped Scotland will move back to Level one. This will allow further relaxation across all areas of the economy and society, while still applying physical distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions and the FACTS guidance. We would see:

  • up to six people from up to three households can socialise indoors in a home or public place
  • hospitality can remain open until 11pm
  • attendance at events can increase numbers subject to capacity constraints
  • increased numbers at life events and places of worship subject to stakeholder engagement

From the end of June, it is hoped that Scotland will be able to move to Level zero.

  • events increase numbers subject to capacity constraints
  • increased numbers at life events and places of worship subject to stakeholder engagement.

We must also be prepared to pause if the data shows that the virus is spreading again. The Scottish Government will act decisively to reapply higher levels of restrictions to manage localised outbreaks should the need arise. This could be on a local or regional basis, depending on the nature of the outbreak.

Read the full Scottish Government Coronavirus (COVID-19): timetable for easing restrictions.

Timetable for easing coronavirus restrictions

Published March 2021

Scottish Government timetable for easing coronavirus restrictions with indicative dates.

Business support

Grants of up to £7,500 for retailers and up to £19,500 for hospitality and leisure businesses will be paid in April to help businesses re-open progressively. These one-off re-start grants will replace ongoing Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF) payments and will provide more money up front to help with the costs of re-opening. Eligible businesses must have applied to the SFBF by 22 March in order to receive these payments.

The last four-weekly SFBF payment of up to £3,000 will be paid on 22 March, as scheduled. Targeted restart grants for businesses that are not in scope for the current SFBF support package may be considered if the Scottish Government receives further consequentials from the UK Government. Read more on the Scottish Government website.

Additional funding for the small accommodation providers paying Council Tax fund: funding is to be increased by approx. £14.45 million, enabling eligible B&Bs, small guesthouses etc. to receive a SFBF April payment of £1,000 and a Restart Grant of £8,000.

Current restrictions

Current restrictions remain in place for the tourism and events industry until 26 April when changes begin.

For now, travel to or from / within Scotland without a reasonable excuse is prohibited by law. At present, unless you live in certain island communities you must, by law, stay at home unless you have a reasonable excuse.

All holiday accommodation remains closed to tourism which means hotels, B&Bs and self-catering can only remain open for essential customers only. Businesses or individuals that fail to comply are committing an offence. 

The 26 April 2021 has been announced as the date the industry can start to reopen, and we realise there is now a need for clear guidance on how to do that, so that you can prepare. Scottish Government is currently liaising with sector organisations to finalise this guidance and are aware of the need to get this out as soon as possible.

Further information

Read the full statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh on Tuesday 16 March.

The ASSC (Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers) has received clarity on a number of key issues associated with the Strategic Framework announced on 16 March and has created a useful 'Answers to Key Questions' blog, which you may find useful regardless of sector.


Today’s announcement by the First Minister will provide a welcome boost to tourism and hospitality businesses across the country that have experienced once of the toughest periods in their history. VisitScotland will look to support businesses by pulling together helpful advice on how to restart in a safe and responsible manner.

We’re focused on the recovery of the industry, building a destination and visitor experience which allows tourism to thrive now and in the future. By working together with businesses and communities, we can all look forward to enjoying the best of Scotland to help our tourism industry get back on its feet, in a safe way. We won’t just be able to push a button and tourism will recover – we have had a year of very little investment, job losses and business closures and it will take time and significant support to get us back to a thriving industry.

Tourism is a force for good – creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it.

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive

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