Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 3: guidance for the safe use of places of worship

Guidance to help places of worship safely re-open for permitted purposes.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 3: guidance for the safe use of places of worship


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.

We are currently in phase 3 of Scotland’s route map for moving out of lockdown. As part of this, from 15 July it has been possible for Places of Worship to open for a number of permitted purposes. 

From 2 November, the Scottish Government has implemented a new strategic approach based on five levels of protection.   The protection levels can be applied either locally or nationally.

There are rules at all 5 levels of the strategic framework about how many people may attend a place of worship:

  • In a place affected by baseline/level 0 and level 1 – existing Cap of 50 people subject to 2 metre capacity.  Outdoor worship of up to 200 can still take place as per outdoor live event guidance
  • In a place affected by any of level 2 or 3 restrictions – existing Cap of 50 people subject to 2 metre capacity (indoor or within the grounds/enclosed spaces of a place of worship).  Larger outdoor events can no longer take place. 
  • At level 4, there is a reduced Cap for worship which has been set at 20 people either inside a place of worship or within the grounds/enclosed spaces.

These limits are necessary for public health reasons.

Places of worship are now able to open for a number of permitted purposes, including, but not limited to:

  • individual prayer or contemplation
  • congregational services, including pre-arranged or scheduled acts of worship and communal prayer
  • broadcasting acts of worship
  • funeral services (separate guidance is available on this)
  • marriage ceremonies and, where celebrants in a faith community undertake them, civil partnerships registrations (read the separate guidance on this)
  • religious life event ceremonies, such as baptisms, christenings and coming-of-age ceremonies  

Opening for any permitted purposes remains subject to physical distancing and hygiene safeguards.

Read the general guidance on staying safe and protecting others.

This guidance is not an instruction to reopen places of worship for any of the permitted purposes. Each place of worship should make its own decision about when it is ready to do this and should only reopen if this can be done safely. Any place of worship that is reopening must take the contents of this guidance into consideration.

We will consider how to allow places of worship to fully reopen within the public health requirements advised as we move through Phase 3 and into Phase 4 of our route map, taking account of medical and scientific advice. 

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 reviewing the latest version of this guidance.

First published: 18 Sep 2020 Last updated: 30 Oct 2020 -