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The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced that she hopes to lift the current Stay at Home order on 5th April with a return to the tiered levels system and a phased but significant re-opening of the economy from Monday 26th April. She stressed that a cautious easing of the restrictions was required to suppress COVID-19 and that she will bring these dates forward if the data shows that any restrictions can be lifted earlier.

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A more formal route map out of lockdown with clearer, indicative dates will be published by the Scottish Government by the middle of March. The main announcements from today are: The remainder of primary school children and more senior pupils will return to school from 15th March along with outdoor mixing of four people from two households and the restarting of outdoor non-contact group sports for young people aged between 12 and 17 years old.

From 5th April, it’s hoped the Stay at Home order will be lifted alongside an expansion of what can be classed as essential retail and a relaxation of some rules around Click and Collect services. The commencement of communal worship may also begin on this date, or slightly earlier, with restricted numbers and it’s also hoped that outdoor gatherings will be increased to six people from two households. More children should be able to return to school after the school Easter Holidays if progress in the fight against COVID-19 continues. Monday 26th April will see a return to the tiered levels system with the majority of areas moving into Level 3 initially – details of what restrictions will be required for each level will be reviewed and this will also be published as part of the formal route map out of lockdown in mid-March.

The First Minister also highlighted that following the Chancellor’s UK budget next week, she would hope to set out more business support for businesses as restrictions are eased. In her speech today, Miss Sturgeon said this would include extending the current Strategic Framework Business Fund (Temporary Closure Grants and Restrictions Grants) until at least the end of June. She stated that when local authority areas move out of level 4, businesses that are allowed to reopen will continue to receive payments from the fund for at least the next four weeks, as they transition back to trading more normally.

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She added that the Scottish Government was also considering some form of tapered support for businesses that may still face trading restrictions and reduced demand, even as they are allowed to re-open and more details on this will be set out soon. You can read today’s announcement in full HERE https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-update-first-ministers-statement-23-february-2021/ or download the revised Strategic Framework HERE https://paisleyfirst.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/COVID-19-Scotland27sStrategicFrameworkupdate-February2021-PDFversion1.pdf Also today, the new VAT deferral monthly payment scheme – for those who deferred a VAT payment due between 20 March and 30 June 2020, is now live. You can see more on the options available to those who deferred VAT payments last year due to COVID-19 HERE on our website. https://paisleyfirst.com/vat-payment-deferrals/