In August 2021, Scotland moved 'beyond Level 0'. This saw the lifting of legal restrictions and greater onus placed on personal responsibility, good practice and continued adherence to the legal requirements and guidance that remained in place. During this period, public adherence to the protective behaviours and baseline measures has remained high. Opinion polling in October among the general public in Scotland showed around 70% rate themselves as complying completely or mostly with the rules and guidance that are in place. This is little changed since April. October polling also showed around three quarters of the general public agreed that we will all need to adapt our way of living to keep ourselves and others safe as we live with COVID-19.
As we enter a challenging winter and festive period, we need to maintain this high level of public support, and we must collectively retain a strong focus on maximising efforts to promote the protective behaviours and baseline measures to help reduce the harms caused by COVID-19 and enable recovery. If adherence were to weaken then this would put upward pressure on cases and increase the likelihood that further restrictions would become necessary to control the virus.
The Scottish Government continues to support the public, and to work with local authorities and business organisations to promote adherence.
Over the summer and into autumn 2021, priorities for communications have focused on:
- encouraging public compliance with key behaviours to help reduce transmission of the virus (face coverings, ventilation, socialise outdoors, clean hands and travel safely);
- increasing the use of regular testing and reinforcing the need for immediate self-isolation if symptomatic or asked to by the NHS; and
- driving uptake of the vaccine by targeting those under 40, hesitant audiences and latterly parents of children aged 12-15.
These core messages have been supported by additional activity when required, to respond to the changing situation.
In August, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and the Scottish Government agreed a joint paper on the role of national and local leadership in ongoing COVID-19 compliance and recovery activity.
Sectoral guidance was consolidated and refined to create guidance to support businesses and workplaces to create and sustain safer workplaces as we moved beyond Level 0 of the COVID-19 levels system.
We have also provided funding support to Scottish Hazards to operate a COVID-19 helpline to provide advice to individuals and some businesses. We engage regularly with Scottish Hazards, who provide anonymised feedback on the issues and concerns raised with them, helping us better understand compliance in reality.
There has been an ongoing focus on developing and improving content on the Scottish Government website to support public understanding of, and compliance with, the guidance. Insights, feedback and analytics have been used to make iterative improvements to the structure and readability of key information and to improve the overall accessibility of documents.
We have entered a very challenging period in our response to COVID-19. The run‑up to the Christmas period and other faith celebrations, the onset of winter, and the return to schools in early 2022, could also have potentially significant effects on COVID-19 case numbers and the harms they cause.
Building on what has been learned already this year about what works, the Scottish Government will develop measures for the winter period to promote and support ongoing adherence that will complement wider preparedness planning.
The core communications priorities for autumn/winter remain as outlined above, along with a focus on domestic certification and the vaccine booster programme. A new behaviours communications campaign launched on 15 November. This was developed using insight from opinion polling and from supplementary qualitative research.
The overarching piece for this campaign encompasses key behaviours along with a strong rationale for why we need 'to keep going'. Supporting activity will follow to allow for individual behaviours and actions to be made clear. All activity will be brought together with the unifying tagline 'Living safely for us all' and #WeAreScotland, which encapsulates the values-based communications strategy which has motivated citizens to play their part in suppressing the virus and to keep each other safe during the pandemic.
Acknowledging the wider COVID-19 Recovery Plan, this campaign will not exist in isolation. A number of campaigns will work together to support the public through the winter months and encourage the behaviours that are needed to alleviate pressure on the NHS and underpin the wider recovery.
Fortnightly opinion polling will continue to monitor key measures. Website content will continue to be refined, and improvements made to the search function for a better overall user experience.
We will continue to engage with COSLA, local authorities, other regulators, trades unions and business organisations to ensure that compliance with regulations and guidance is maintained in business and event settings and we will continue to promote, across sectors, tools to increase understanding and to promote good practice.