Nicola Sturgeon has told employers who have remained open following the coronavirus-enforced lockdown of Scotland to send workers home unless they are key to “economic resilience” or aiding the fight against the pandemic.
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, the First Minister gave an update to businesses in which she advised construction sites to close. It comes after all “non-essential” retail outlets were told to shut their doors on Monday.
Uncertain employers across the country have been told to send workers home if they are not contributing “essential to the nation” in the fight against covid-19.
However businesses which are vital to the economy have been given the go-ahead to continue – but only if they do so in line with strict health guidelines surrounding coronavirus.
She said “key strategic sites” which are “vital to economic resilience” should remain open – but only if properly manned and adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Food producers and manufacturers have been told to let their staff work from home if they can – unless they are providing a service or product key to the running of the country.
Building work should not continue unless work is “essential” including on hospitals.
Mrs Sturgeon said: “I want to be clear today about what the Scottish Government is expecting.
“Firstly I want to stress that it is employers that should make these decisions. It should not be up to employees to anguish over whether they are going into work.
“In particular it is important that key strategic sites vital to economic resilience and that can’t be easily shut down, for example the steelworks in Dalzell, can continue to work so long as they can continue to maintain the minimum number of required staff and the social distancing requirements.
“I am aware there will be many businesses out there that don’t fit neatly into those categories – manufacturers and food producers for example.”
Addressing the latter she said: “Firstly if your staff can work from home then that is what you should allow them to do.
“Secondly if your staff cannot work from home you should asking yourself if your business is contributing something right now that is essential to the fight against coronavirus. For example making medical supplies or manufacturing essential items.
“Or is it contributing something essential to the well-being of the nation, for example food supplies? If it is we want you to keep going if possible.”
She added: “The question you must ask yourself is can you operate your business in line with safe social distancing practise, and of course, health and safety requirements?
“If you cannot answer yes to those questions then in our view you should not continue to be open.”
Mrs Sturgeon said she acknowledged the “very acute challenges businesses are facing right now”, adding she was aware of “concerns”.
She said: “It is not going to be possible for us to offer a decision or bespoke guidance for everyone in Scotland.”
On building sites she said: “We are expecting them to be closed unless the building being worked on is essential such as a hospital.”
When quizzed again on the construction industry by Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw she added: “My judgment is based on the advice I have right now. Construction sites should not continue.”
Mrs Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is taking account of “operational differences”.
She added that self-employed gardeners and window cleaners could continue working so long as they can “go about their business safely”.
It comes as health secretary Jeane Freeman announced Scotland’s intensive care unit capacity would be quadrupled by over 700 – and said a “pipeline of ventilators” would be in Scotland “as quick as possible”.