Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th January 2021.

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The First Minister:

We will set out more guidance on those points. On the issue of key workers in the education context, local authorities have specifically asked for some flexibility in that regard, which I think it is important to afford them.

There is a balance to be struck. In terms of business, we are not, as of now, in quite as restrictive a position as we were back in March—when non-essential work in construction and manufacturing, for example, was closed—but we need to keep that under review. We need to look at not only the spread of the virus but the really important relationship, which I understand, between people’s ability to work—or rather, the requirement on them to work—and their ability to look after their children and take part in online learning for those children at home.

The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture will have discussions as early as this afternoon with business organisations, and discussions with trade unions, to ensure that we help people—just as we did back in March—to navigate their way through what I recognise is a difficult situation. However, the message to businesses is that we are again asking them to scrutinise their operations rigorously, as they did in March, and assure themselves that the people whom they are requiring to be at work are genuinely only those who cannot do their job at home. There is a need to ensure that as many people as possible who can work from home are supported to do so.