Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer public spaces - updated guidance

Guidance focused on design principles for safer urban centres and green spaces in Scotland during the coronavirus crisis. It contains information and examples of interventions that may be undertaken by owners and operators of public spaces to keep people safe.

63 page PDF

12.2 MB

63 page PDF

12.2 MB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer public spaces - updated guidance
1. Introduction

63 page PDF

12.2 MB

1. Introduction

This publication is a guidance document focusing on the design principles for safer urban centres and green spaces. The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 came into force on 26 March to allow enforcement of a range of measures in recognition of the threat posed to public health from the coronavirus. This guidance contains information and examples of interventions that may be undertaken by the owners and operators of public spaces to keep people safe in urban spaces. This guidance applies in Scotland only and does not impose any legal obligations.

This guidance is primarily for owners and operators of public places including but not limited to:

  • Local authorities and town/city centre managers
  • Landowners
  • Commercial landlords responsible for public places
  • Management companies

This document provides a framework for identifying the issues associated with the use of public places in light of the need for physical distancing. It focuses primarily on areas which are likely to have high footfall. It also includes practical interventions, which are temporary, for adapting and managing public places. This guidance covers external public spaces and is not intended for indoor shopping centres and malls. Before using this document owners and operators should also consider if any local restrictions are currently in place in their area as a result of the local COVID protection levels, as set out in Scotland's Strategic Framework.

It is intended to enable the owners and operators of public spaces to plan for the temporary adaptations and interventions that will be needed to ensure physical distancing in public spaces. The rights and responsibilities set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code still apply. A link to the Code can be found in the Appendix.

Public health is devolved in Scotland. 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 measures are adjusted, may vary. We will take distinctive decisions for Scotland if the evidence and judgement tells us that is necessary.

This publication has been developed from guidance first prepared by the UK Government's Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, (MHCLG). It is based on advice from technical experts and input from key industry groups associated with the ownership and management of urban and green spaces.

We expect this document will be updated over time - this version is up to date as of 2 November 2020. You can check for updates on the main Scottish Government coronavirus page. If you have any feedback regarding the content of this document to inform future guidance, please email to

1.1 Scotland's route map through and out of the crisis

On 21 May 2020, Scotland's First Minister announced the route map to easing the COVID-19 lockdown arrangements. This route map takes an evidence-led and transparent approach to easing restrictions and sets out a phased approach towards the future. No dates or timescales have been set and the First Minister has made it clear that the basis on which a move to each phase is made will be dependent on meeting stringent criteria. We will also need to keep each of the phases constantly under review as we learn to live with the virus and see the impact the suggested changes make. The five phases of the route map are as follows:-

Lockdown: High transmission of the virus. Risk of overwhelming NHS capacity without significant restrictions in place

Phase 1: High risk the virus is not yet contained. Continued risk of overwhelming NHS capacity without some restrictions in place

Phase 2: Virus is controlled but risk of spreading remains. Focus is on containing outbreaks.

Phase 3: Virus has been suppressed. Continued focus on containing sporadic outbreaks.

Phase 4: Virus remains suppressed to very low levels and is no longer considered a significant threat to public health.

Greater detail on what people can expect in the five phases is set out in the route map.

In addition, the Strategic Framework, showing levels of restrictions that may be used locally or nationally was published in October.

For individuals, the important advice remains FACTS. By applying this guidance local authorities and land owners can help support individuals avoid crowds, clean hands and remain 2 metres apart.

1.2 How to use this guidance

This document sets out guidance across the main types of places in urban centres and green spaces that the Scottish Government advises should be assessed and adapted as necessary to operate safely in line with physical distancing measures.

Practical interventions are set out within the blue boxes (pdf only).

The guidance is applicable to any type of urban and green space in cities, towns and settlements. Each owner/operator is advised to translate the principles and examples in this guidance into the specific actions they need to take, alongside other guidance produced by the Scottish Government.

1.3 What we mean by "urban" and "green" spaces

The focus of this document is those urban centres and green spaces likely to experience high footfall, particularly as we move through the Route Map.

Urban centres - focus on publicly accessible areas such as high streets, transport hubs and shopping areas.

Greenspaces - are publicly accessible open spaces focussed in, but not limited to, urban and suburban contexts including parks, burial grounds and cemeteries.