4. Partnership Approach
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There is an understandable desire to see a plan that will provide some certainty as we move towards the future. However, the reality is that there is much that we do not yet know about the virus and the way in which the pandemic will develop. As mentioned above, not everything will happen in one phase or necessarily at the same time. It may be that we can do some of the things planned for one phase, but not others. Some things may happen more quickly, some will take longer. We will also need to monitor Test and Protect in each phase.
This is the first iteration of a consultative and dynamic document. We are listening to the views of key partners and stakeholders, to businesses, organisations and people across Scotland as we develop our plans, in particular in advance of the next end-of-cycle review date on 28 May.
The people of Scotland
We have initiated an open and transparent conversation with the people of Scotland. That conversation has been supported by the publication of the evidence we have relied upon to make important decisions about transitioning out of the current lockdown arrangements. Our online platform was open between 5 May and 11 May and in that time we received more than 4,000 ideas and almost 18,000 comments. We are publishing alongside this route map a summary of what we have heard.
These ideas and comments are being used to inform the decisions we will be taking on moving out of the current lockdown. At its heart, the summary shows that the people of Scotland are trying to balance the imperative of tackling this virus with the very human desire to see friends and family, to help our economy recover and to improve our quality of life. There's also a strong sense of people taking personal responsibility and expecting that of their fellow citizens, and of the balance between asking the Government to ease the restrictions on their freedom and a commitment to take personal responsibility for their role in controlling the virus.
This is just the beginning of our discussions with the people of Scotland. The World Health Organization, in their strategy for transition, emphasize that "communities have a voice, are informed, engaged and participatory in the transition". We are committed to that. We need to have an honest conversation about the difficult judgements we face, and their evidential basis, every step of the way. The digital platform is one step in a broader public engagement initiative that we are now developing and which will be set out in future weeks.
Key partners in Scotland
In order to address the COVID-19 crisis we have sought to be as inclusive as possible in our decision making and involve a wide range of experts to help us work through the many facets of our response. We recognise that local government and Police Scotland have vital roles in the operational oversight and management of physical distancing measures. We have engaged with local government and Police Scotland as we have developed the route map and the approach to the easing of the lockdown and will engage further – both in the run up to 28 May and as we progress through the phases.
In taking decisions about the recovery of education, we have worked closely with local government, teacher unions and the national parents' organisation. The COVID-19 Education Recovery Group, chaired by the Deputy First Minister, has led this work and has considered all practical options that will allow us to strike the right balance between safety, healthcare, wellbeing and learning as schools begin to reopen.
A Strategic Framework has been jointly agreed and is to be used at local level in conjunction with Local Phasing Delivery Plans for the reopening of schools and early learning and childcare provision in Scotland. It highlights that we are working to enable as many children and young people as possible to return to education and care settings at the earliest date on which it is safe to do so. This can only be undertaken with careful planning and clear communication to pupils, parents, carers and staff to build confidence and assurance that the health and scientific advice justifies such a position.
We aim to restart school education for almost all children and young people in Scotland in August. Subject to public health guidance, teachers and other school staff should be returning to schools in June, to plan and prepare for the new model of learning that will be implemented in August. This new model, will include physical distancing and significantly reduced class sizes as well as enhanced hygiene regimes. As a result most pupils will spend around half their time in school and half learning at home. Health and safety guidance, including risk assessments, will be in place prior to staff returning to school in June.
Mindful of the impact of lockdown on many of our most vulnerable children, local authorities will work with partners to increase the numbers of children attending critical childcare provision including hubs. This will include both keyworker children and children whom teachers, ELC professionals and other partners, in consultation with the local authority, think would benefit most from early direct contact with education and care staff. There should be a particular focus on supporting children at key transition points (e.g. due to start P1 or S1) which may include some in-school experience in late June, where possible and safe to implement, so that they are supported to take the next steps in their education.
In taking and implementing decisions about how we restart our economy we must work in close collaboration with employers, trade unions and workplace regulators, including the Health and Safety Executive and Local Authorities. We must restart the economy safely and this has to be built around three pillars:
successful measures to suppress the virus, including the ability to test, trace and isolate further cases effectively;
the right structure for workplace regulation; and
guidance that promotes fair and safe workplaces and sectors.
Sector-specific guidance will work alongside UK Government guidance to give employers, workers and customers confidence that our workplaces are safe, when the time is right to restart. We will work collectively with regulators to ensure that the right advice, support and enforcement measures are in place to help employers undertake risk assessments and put in place measures to keep workers safe. This will include taking steps to help people to continue work from home and providing support where required for those with caring responsibilities or who are self-isolating or shielded, in line with our Fair Work principles agreed with the STUC.
We have also been engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, including third sector organisations, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the SHRC (Scottish Human Rights Commission), the Children and Young People's Commissioner – Scotland, the Poverty and Inequality Commission and the Poverty Truth Commissions we support across Scotland, to understand the impact of the lockdown measures on human rights, including children's rights, and people at particular risk of negative impact from them (such as women, children, older people, disabled people and minority ethnic communities). Regular virtual roundtables have also been taking place with stakeholder groups to ensure we are hearing the latest intelligence on emerging impacts and the issues people are facing. This dialogue is feeding into our consideration of how to phase the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Just as there has been a disproportionate impact of COVID-19 itself some of the measures to release restrictions may also inadvertently exacerbate inequality which is why it is essential that we continue dialogue with the public and with a wide range of stakeholder groups to ensure everyone's voice is heard and we consider all the impacts of easing restrictions.
Four Nations Co-operation
The Scottish Government has been working with the UK and Welsh Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive in its response to the pandemic, exchanging information and ideas and taking action collectively on a "four nations" basis where it is appropriate to do so. The circumstances and progress of the epidemic vary across the four countries, so there is a shared recognition that the approach taken in each, including the pace at which lockdown measures are adjusted, may vary. We will take distinctive decisions for Scotland if the evidence and judgement tells us that is necessary.
It is important to note that as the rate of infection may be different in different parts of the UK, our route map should be considered alongside local public health and safety requirements for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If people in the future are travelling to other parts of the UK then they should follow the relevant guidance in place.
The Scottish Parliament
Democratic scrutiny of the response of the Government and the public sector to the COVID-19 crisis is crucial. The legislation putting in place lockdown restrictions was approved by the Scottish Parliament and its approval will also be needed for most substantive changes.
The Parliament has also considered two major bills brought forward by the Scottish Government to support individuals, such as tenants of rented housing, and organisations to cope with the consequences of the epidemic and to allow public services and legal proceedings to continue in the current circumstances. We will continue to keep the Scottish Parliament informed both of the progress of the epidemic and our decisions as we progress through the pandemic.
The Scottish Government is also committed to undertaking a Fairer Scotland Duty assessment of both Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts 2020 at the end of their initial period (30 September 2020). This will review the measures against evidence on the impacts on socio-economically disadvantaged groups and identify further opportunities to reduce or mitigate any inequalities arising.
We welcome the creation of the new <abbr>COVID</abbr> 19 Committee and the scrutiny that it and other parliamentary committees bring to our decision making.