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First Minister hails further progress against Covid-19 as beer gardens open for the first time since lockdown began


By Ian Duncan

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Nicola Sturgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon.

There have been no new deaths from confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Scotland in the last 48 hours in what First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called “continued progress” in the fight against the virus.

Technical difficulties meant that no confirmation could be made yesterday on whether or not there were any new deaths, however, today, Ms Sturgeon said four more people had contracted the infection, taking the total to 18,300.

At today's briefing the First Minister also welcomed a commitment from the UK government to provide support for the arts and culture sector, which came in addition to £10 million of support announced by the Scottish Government on Friday.

Ms Sturegon promised that Scotland' share of the UK money “will be passed on in full” to struggling arts organisations.

“Regarding Scotland's arts and culture sector, on Friday we became the first government in the UK to provide direct support to performing arts venues with the announcement of a £10 million relief fund," she said.

“We called then on the UK government to step up and provide further assistance and so we very much welcome the announcement from the UK government last night of a significant package of financial support.

“We are now seeking clarity on precisely how all the different funding arrangements will work and we will engage quickly with those in our culture and heritage sectors to identify the best ways in which the Scottish Government can provide additional help.

“But I want to give a commitment that the funding announced by the UK government last night will be passed on in full in Scotland, to our arts, culture and heritage sector ,and I hope today's news together with last week's Scottish Government announcement will provide people working across the sector with some optimism about the future.”

As beer gardens and pavement cafés opened again she also said local authorities are being asked to temporarily relax planning rules to help pubs and other businesses use more outdoor space.

“I know many people have been eagerly awaiting one change in particular – from today in Scotland outdoor hospitality venues such as pavement cafés and beer gardens are able to reopen," she said.

“We know that implementing some of the safety and physical distancing can create specific challenges and, of course, reduce the number of people that can be in these places at any given time.

“That's why we want to give businesses a bit more freedom in their use of outdoor space and today we have taken an additional step by asking local authorities to put in place a temporary relaxation of planning controls so that it's easier for businesses to use public space."

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