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Mure Dickie in Edinburgh

The Scottish government is to impose its top level of coronavirus restrictions on 11 council areas including Glasgow, saying it hoped the “short and sharp” move to near-lockdown would allow measures to be eased for Christmas.

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister, told the Scottish parliament on Tuesday that existing restrictions had slowed Covid-19 infections, but progress in Scotland’s most populous city and the mostly nearby council areas targeted for the strict “level-four” restrictions had not been quick enough.

“The infection rate in all of these area remains stubbornly and worryingly high,” Ms Sturgeon said. “At these levels we would not have the flexibility we need to ease restrictions over Christmas which, in common with the other UK nations, we so desperately want to do.”

The level-four restrictions would be in place from Friday for three weeks, she said.

The first minister also said that existing government guidance against non-essential travel into or out of areas under level-three or four restrictions would be put on a statutory footing. “The guidance that has been in place in recent weeks will become law from Friday,” she said.

Under level-four restrictions, all “non-essential” shops must close, as must restaurants, bars and pubs, although takeaways can operate and Ms Sturgeon said schools would remain open.

Some council leaders in areas affected by the new restrictions, which include East and West Renfrewshire, North and South Lanarkshire, West Lothian and Stirling, had called for caution in imposing what they say will be disastrous restrictions on business and local economies.

Ms Sturgeon said she accepted that the news would be “distressing and disappointing” for many businesses, but that the development of new vaccines meant better times were ahead while the need to protect the national health system through the difficult winter months justified tough action.

She announced an easing of restrictions from level three to level two in East Lothian and Midlothian following a “marked decline in cases” in the two council areas bordering Edinburgh.

Ruth Davidson, the Conservatives’ leader in the Scottish parliament, said that if the evidence pointed to three weeks of restrictions allowing a later more general easing over Christmas and the New Year, then that was “with regret, a judgment that we will take at face value”.

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