Nicola Sturgeon has warned Scots she is ready to put a five-mile travel limit into law after thousands of people flouted her guidelines on the first weekend of lockdown being eased.
The First Minister said she “would not hesitate” to act if “there is continued evidence of even a minority” of people continuing to ignore guidance on staying within five miles of home.
She warned that a recommendation that groups be limited to eight people could also be enshrined in legislation, while an existing law that no more than two households can meet “will be enforced” by police.
In an extraordinary threat, she also raised the prospect of reintroducing restrictions that were only relaxed on Friday if the coronavirus “figures start to go in the wrong direction.”
But she was forced to deny that people would simply ignore her if she attempted to reimpose a strict lockdown so soon. The number of cases increased by only 18 and the death toll rose by only one.
She was also undermined by Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, who said any new laws would damage relations with the public and “most of it would be unenforceable.
Her vow to get tough on the lockdown miscreants came as it emerged Police Scotland had to disperse 797 groups on Saturday alone, moving people on for not complying with the rules. This was five times higher than the previous Saturday’s total.
A total of 1,391 groups were dispersed between Friday and Sunday, including 650 cases where an official police warning was issued. However, only 16 fines were handed out and no one was arrested.
Transport use was up 60 per cent on Saturday compared to the previous week, while a 70 per cent rise was recorded on Sunday, with even larger spikes recorded in some beauty spots.
Ms Sturgeon said traffic on the A82 by Loch Lomond was around three times higher on Saturday than seven days previously, with a similar sharp rise at Glencoe.
Despite the Scottish Government guidance stating that people should stay within five miles of their home for leisure, she said that in some cases “people were staying overnight in tents, caravans or motorhomes.”
The widespread defiance of the newly-relaxed lockdown rules came as Scots cooped up for almost 10 weeks flocked to beaches and parks in temperatures as high as 28.3C (83F).
Hundreds of day trippers travelled far beyond the five-mile limit to Luss, a village near Loch Lomond, leaving their cars by the side of the road after car parks remained shut.
Public lavatories also remained closed. Concerns were raised in Gullane, East Lothian, after the town was apparently overrun with visitors leaving rubbish and “human waste” on the street.
Highlighting the surge in traffic levels at her daily press briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m going to be blunt here – it is very hard to see how all of that can have been caused by local residents, or by people travelling a reasonable distance to meet loved ones.”
She added: “I have a duty to be clear with you, that if there is continued evidence of even a minority not abiding by those guidelines and travelling unnecessarily – if people meet up in larger groups or make journeys which risk spreading the virus – we will have to put those restrictions, on group size and travel distance, into law.
“And we won’t hesitate to do so if we think it is necessary for the collective safety and wellbeing of the nation.”
She said Scots had “no excuse” for not knowing the rules and warned she would not wait until the next lockdown review date on June 18 to introduce any new laws.
However, she denied that they would be ignored by a populace weary of lockdown, saying this represented a “counsel of despair” and the evidence of the past two months was that Scots would comply.
Ms Sturgeon reminded Scots hosting barbecues that guests from the other household should bring their own food and utensils. They should also not go inside the host’s house to use the toilet.
The First Minister argued that the “only way” of avoiding restrictions being reimposed was to “comply with the rules”. Groups are supposed to be limited to eight people, two more than permitted in England.
Speaking “very directly to young people” following reports of much larger groups from multiple households, she warned the virus “can still be harmful to you” and they could pass it onto their parents or grandparents.
Ms Sturgeon illustrated that the virus remains a threat by disclosing that at the weekend she discovered for the first time that a friend or family member had been diagnosed with it.
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“It’s still there – it’s ready to pounce, and jump across any bridges we offer it. If we want to stop that, we must, must stick to these guidelines,” she said.
Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said: “The figures from the last 72 hours – high numbers of dispersals and no arrests relating to coronavirus– show how we are continuing to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance and encourage compliance.
“We will only use enforcement as a last resort only where there is a clear breach of the legislation, and our overall approach will continue to be one based on common sense and discretion.”
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