Guardian News and Media/London
Nicola Sturgeon has threatened to introduce new laws against travelling for leisure outside local areas after widespread breaches of Scotland’s lockdown rules at the weekend.
The first minister accused thousands of people who travelled more than five miles from their homes to beauty spots and beaches of putting lives at risk and increasing the chances of a second surge in Covid-19 cases and a much longer lockdown.
Scotland’s lockdown guidance was eased on Friday to allow people to travel more than five miles from home to see family, and to meet up to eight people from another household outside.
She said Police Scotland issued nearly 800 dispersal notices on Saturday, five times more than the previous Saturday, with reports of people camping overnight, or travelling with caravans and camper vans.
With the country experiencing a heatwave, the government agency Transport Scotland said traffic levels on Sunday were 70% higher than last weekend, and 60% higher on Saturday.
On the A82 at Loch Lomond and in Glen Coe, traffic was 200% higher than the previous weekend. Police ran a checkpoint at Drymen near Loch Lomond, an area where there has been some of Scotland’s highest rates of lockdown breaches, and turned back drivers who did not live nearby.
Sturgeon said traffic data was worrying since progress suppressing the pandemic was still fragile.
She said she was rethinking her decision to trust people to understand the rules and uphold them voluntarily or use discretion wisely.
“I have a duty to be clear with you that if there is continued evidence of even a minority of people not abiding by these guidelines and travelling unnecessarily, we will have to put these restrictions on group sizes and travel distance into law,” Sturgeon said yesterday during the daily coronavirus press briefing.
“We won’t hesitate to do that if we think that’s necessary for the collective safety and wellbeing of the population...Cases could increase again – it wouldn’t take too much for that to happen, and if that happens then that will result in more loss of life.”
In England, health experts have been fiercely critical of the UK government’s decision to quickly ease the lockdown and reopen schools, car showrooms and outdoor markets while infection and transmission rates remain too high.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister, has insisted there is enough evidence to justify those policies.
While Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, conceded on Sunday it was a “delicate and dangerous moment”, Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary for England, said ministers were “reasonably confident” the new rules were correct.
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