Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for museums, galleries and heritage attractions

Good practice guidelines for museums, galleries and heritage attractions

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for museums, galleries and heritage attractions
Where we are now

Where we are now

The First Minister announced that Scotland would be entering its first lockdown on 23 March 2020. Since then we have experienced unlocking and new waves of infection, requiring fresh lockdowns and an evolution of measures to control the spread of the virus.

Scotland’s Strategic Framework

Scotland follows a COVID-19 levels system. There are five levels (0-4) and each has a different set of rules.

Find out the level and rules for an area using the postcode checker. Get information on the latest COVID-19 situation.

Museums, galleries and heritage attractions are required close in Level 4 but are allowed to be open in levels 0 – 2 and open with protective measures in level 3, if they can comply with the requirements specified in this guidance and in their risk assessments. Particular care should be taken around aspects including, but not limited to, timed entry, visitor flow, required physical distancing and ventilation.

Physical distancing

Physical distancing measures will be slowly eased to enable us to operate in a less restricted way.

When areas move down to Level 0, the following changes will apply:

  • physical distancing of one metre in outdoor settings
  • physical distancing of one metre in indoor settings

Physical distancing requirements will be removed when all areas in Scotland move beyond Level 0, subject to review.

Social mixing

Indoor and outdoor socialising will change to reflect the numbers relevant at Level 0. 


  • maximum 10 people from up to 4 households may socialise indoors in a public place

  • maximum of 8 people from up to 4 households may socialise in a private dwelling

Physical distancing requirements will apply between different households within a social group in indoor public places, however you do not need to physically distance from family and friends in a private dwelling.


  • maximum of 15 people from up to 15 households. Under 12s do not count towards restricted numbers or households outdoors

There is no requirement for distancing within the grouping. The physical distancing requirement will apply between different social groups.   

Beyond Level 0

We have set out the vaccine milestones we hope to reach over the summer, and the plan to take us out of COVID-19 restrictions. See our proposed timetable for these changes.

Our Strategic Framework update sets out what a move beyond Level 0 may look like. We will ensure that our information is clear and accessible as we enter a period where people need to make personal judgements, rather than rules set by government.

This means everyone playing their part by:

  • maintaining good hand hygiene
  • practising respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette
  • wearing face coverings
  • ensuring there is good ventilation – open windows when indoors
  • continuing to engage with Test and Protect and self-isolate when symptomatic or have tested positive

A move beyond Level 0 will be conditional on all adults over 40 protected with two doses of the vaccination and a review of the epidemic being carried out ahead of the date for that move.

Refreshed risk assessments should be carried out at any change in level, with particular focus on demonstrating that organisations have sufficient provision of dedicated visitor facing staff to be able to control and manage visitor flow and facilitate the circulation of visitors round a permitted route.

Organisations should be aware that at level 3 transmission risks will be higher and organisations will need to maintain additional vigilance.

Organisations should ensure they are aware of the protection level for the local authority area in which they are based. 

Visitor attractions with retail and hospitality facilities can open these facilities in levels 0-3 in line with retail sector and tourism and hospitality guidance.

As we progress through the route map, Scotland's economic recovery and future prosperity is dependent on safe workplaces. Organisations should use this guidance to engage with trade union or workforce representatives to develop workplace specific plans to manage the move away from current restrictions.

Details on which sectors and workplaces can prepare to, or are able to return to work are available at:


Check latest information on travel, including travel between levels and local authority areas, and consider the impact this could have for your event. Information on the legal restrictions on travel is available at travel guidance.

By law you must not travel out of or into a Level 4 local authority area unless you have a reasonable excuse (see exceptions).


Physical distancing duties are set out in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (the 2020 Regulations)A person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service must take all reasonable measures:

  • to ensure that the required level of physical distancing is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)
  • to ensure that they only admit people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance
  • to ensure that the required level of physical distancing is is maintained between any person waiting to enter the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)

Collecting visitor contact details

There is guidance available on the collection of customer and visitor contact details. The guidance strongly recommends that settings collect the details of all visitors to premises and not just the lead adult of a household. Collecting contact details at museums, galleries and heritage attractions is voluntary, but it is important that both premises and individuals cooperate, as it is crucial to national efforts to suppress the virus. For hospitality settings, including cafes, bars and restaurants in museums, galleries and heritage attractions, it is a mandatory requirement to collect minimal contact details from customers to support NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect service, and share these details with public health officers for the purposes of contact tracing when requested.

Check In Scotland app

In December 2020, we launched the free Check In Scotland app. Visitors to venues are able to download the app from Google Play and the Apple App Store. Both the Check In Scotland online form and the app have been carefully designed to give visitors a choice in the way they submit contact details, and data is kept securely, in line with the requirements set out within this guidance. As well as providing choice, the app service also allows for offline use if visitors cannot connect to the internet. Each individual visitor to a premises should submit their contact details. We would strongly encourage settings to consider implementing the Check In Scotland digital solution to enable straightforward compliance with the measures required.

The guidance is a tool to support customer and visitor data gathering for businesses and other establishments in Scotland where the nature of the premises means there may be an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 due to a higher degree of interaction between unknown individuals. It sets out how to collect individual contact details in a safe and secure manner which is compliant with data protection legislation, to assist NHS Scotland in responding to outbreaks of COVID-19. It came into effect on 15 July 2020, and was updated on 20 April 2021. The guidance applies to any establishment or operator in sectors that provide an on-site service or work in other people’s homes to deliver a service, including tourism and leisure, including theme parks, museums and cinemas.

We need a strong museums, galleries and heritage attractions sector to help drive Scotland's economic recovery and future prosperity. The Scottish Government recognises the important role of the cultural sector in the health and wellbeing of our society, as set out in the National Performance Framework. In these challenging times, as we move through our route map in response to the crisis and to eventual recovery, the role of museums galleries and heritage attractions, to help play their part in improving the health and wellbeing of our people, together with being a catalyst to inspire creativity and problem solving, will be even more important. Many museums and galleries are free at the point of access and as such are able to support a diverse range of audiences. Decisions on whether to reopen are for individual organisations to take, ensuring they have considered cost implications.  

Organisations should therefore use this guidance to look forward and engage with trade union or workforce representatives to develop workplace specific plans for a managed transition away from current restrictions, allowing sufficient time for that joint work. And while those plans should be fully developed, with measures put in place and tested where possible, they should not be implemented as yet. 

This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Scottish Government’s  business and physical distancing guidance which still applies.

Other key guidance includes:

  • HPS: COVID-19 Non Healthcare Settings guidance which provides information on the background to COVID-19, symptoms, general principles of infection prevention and control and health protection measures and what to do if someone becomes unwell on site
  • NHS Inform which has a wide range of useful public facing information including information on symptoms and what to do
  • Test and protect website from Scottish government that contains information on how getting tested and what you need to do
  • Returning to work safely which has details of current sectoral guidance and further sources of advice for organisations and workers
  • Healthy Working Lives website which provides examples of risk assessment templates and other practical tools for organisations and workers
  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) COVID-19 guidance as this will be referred to by HSE inspectors to assess compliance

Business support

There has been an unprecedented package of support announced from both the Scottish and UK Governments to support organisations.  This support should help many employers preserve their organisations, maintain jobs and pay their staff throughout this crisis. Information on this support is available through We urge all organisations to make use of this. In the event of the risk of imminent closures all available support measures must be utilised to protect the jobs and incomes of Scotland’s museums, galleries and heritage attractions.

First published: 6 Jul 2020 Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 -