Scotland should “look seriously at social and economic reform” in its planning for recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister said the virus has fundamentally changed everyday life but has given an opportunity to shape a different kind of future.
Her comments came ahead of the Scottish Government releasing its latest daily figures on the virus toll, confirming a total of 1,249 people in Scotland who have tested positive for Covid-19 have died, a rise of 18 in 24 hours.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman urged some caution on these figures, saying deaths registered at the weekend tend to be relatively low.
Stressing that lockdown measures are vital to suppress the spread of coronavirus, and could continue in their current form beyond this three-week period, Ms Sturgeon called on people to work together to develop ways Scotland can emerge stronger from the crisis.
We can go further than rebuilding, and look seriously at social and economic reformNicola Sturgeon
Writing in the Herald on Sunday, she said: “When things come apart – when the kaleidoscope of our lives is shaken – there is an opportunity to see them put back together differently, and see a new way of doing things.
“And we can start to think together, and work together, to decide the kind of Scotland we want to emerge from this crisis.
“We still all face major challenges. Challenges in navigating the uncertainties that the virus has created, as well as rebuilding our economy and public services.
“But we can go further than rebuilding, and look seriously at social and economic reform.”
She added: “I am confident we can start to begin considering our futures with optimism because this crisis has taught us how we can achieve rapid results under the most demanding circumstances.”
Earlier this week, as the Scottish Government published a paper setting out a framework for how lockdown measures could be eased in the future, Ms Sturgeon warned people must adapt to a new reality and said some restrictions to prevent spread could be in place until the end of the year or beyond.
The latest Health Protection Scotland daily figures published on Sunday indicate 1,249 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19, but the true death toll is likely to be higher as statistics from the National Records of Scotland covering all deaths linked to the virus as of Sunday April 19 was 1,616.
Across the country, 10,324 people had tested positive for the virus by Sunday morning, up 273 on the previous day.
The latest figures stated a total of 1,748 people were in hospital, down 13 in 24 hours, while of those patients 133 were in intensive care, a drop of seven.
Speaking on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, Ms Sturgeon said she would diverge from elsewhere in the UK in lifting lockdown measures if necessary, but stressed this decision is “not political in any way, shape or form”.
She said: “If, and it is an if, I’m not saying that we’re likely to get in to this territory, the UK Government took decisions that I thought were premature in terms of coming out of the lockdown, then clearly I would want to make sure that Scotland did what I judged was best to protect the population.”
Questioned on whether she had the power to close the border if needed, if restrictions between Scotland and England differed, she said: “I don’t have the power to close borders but these are discussions of course we want to continue to have with the UK Government.”
In the wide-ranging interview, she also said Scotland is on track to hit its capacity target of 3,500 tests daily by the end of April but faces challenges in ensuring these available tests are “fully utilised”.
At the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, Ms Freeman said the First Minister was talking about external UK borders.
She said: “Just for clarity, can I be clear that what the First Minister was talking about was international borders, ie entry into the UK from outside of the UK and liaising and discussing with the UK Government what more could be done there.”