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

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The First Minister:

The justification for the decision is to do with the uncertainty around the impact on transmission among young people. If schools were to remain open in those areas and that had a bigger impact than has been the case before, the overall stability of those areas, in terms of the levels of the virus, might be jeopardised. It is a precautionary decision.

We have decided to leave the island communities in level 3. We are looking carefully at Shetland, because it has had a high number of cases in recent days, but the indications yesterday and today are that case numbers are stabilising. We will monitor that very carefully indeed.

I take the point about the greater accessibility issues around digital and broadband. We will discuss what more we can do to assist not only island but remote communities on that issue.

In response to Willie Rennie’s first point, yes, we will consider that. I deliberately made the point in my statement that when it comes to getting schools back, it will not necessarily be a binary decision to open or close; if we can get some pupils back ahead of all pupils, that is what we will do. Obviously, we will consider whether primary schools can come back before we feel that it is safe to bring back secondary schools, if we feel that that is not safe by the time we get to the review point on 18 January. All those things will be very much under consideration. We want all children to be in school as normal as quickly as possible, but short of that we want as many to get back as quickly as possible.