We recognise the important role that places of worship play in providing spiritual leadership to many people, and acknowledge the outstanding contribution of Scotland’s faith communities during these unprecedented times.
Our strategic intent is to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible. We are working to a strategic framework based on five levels of protective measures, which can be applied either locally or nationally. The latest measures and the levels applied to each area can be found on the Scottish Government’s Coronavirus home page
The legal restrictions and requirements that apply at each level of protection are set out in the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 – referred to in this guidance as “the Regulations”. (The link above provides the latest text of the Regulations, including amendments that have been made over time.) The Regulations state that a person who is responsible for a place of worship, carrying on a business or providing a service must also have regard to guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers about measures which should be taken to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus on those premises. This guidance is issued for that purpose in relation to places of worship
At all protection levels, places of worship are able to open for individual prayer and communal worship, and individuals may travel to attend their usual place of worship located in another area – see Advice for those attending a place of worship.
Places of worship are able to open for the following purposes:
- individual prayer or contemplation
- congregational services, including pre-arranged or scheduled acts of worship and communal prayer
- religious life event ceremonies, such as baptisms, christenings and coming-of-age ceremonies that form part of a wider congregational service
- broadcasting acts of worship
- funeral services (separate guidance is available for funeral services)
- marriage ceremonies and, where celebrants in a faith community undertake them, civil partnerships registrations (separate guidance is available for wedding ceremonies and civil partnership registrations)
Any other activities that may normally take place in a place of worship (including associated meeting halls) are subject to the regulations and guidance applicable to that activity and the protection level for the area. The Scottish Government website sets out what you can and cannot do.
Opening for any purpose remains subject to 2m physical distancing and hygiene safeguards.
Those responsible for places of worship must ensure that people are able to maintain a distance of 2 metres at all times from others who are not part of their household, and should limit the numbers attending services accordingly. More detail is provided under Restrictions on capacity.
This guidance is not an instruction to open places of worship for any purpose. Each place of worship should make its own decision about when it is ready to do this and should only open if it is satisfied this can be done safely. Any place of worship that is reopening must take the contents of this guidance into consideration along with any other relevant coronavirus guidance.
This guidance is based on scientific and medical advice at the time of writing. It does not constitute legal advice. Please ensure that you are viewing the latest version of this guidance.