Coronavirus (COVID-19): Strategic Framework update - February 2021

Sets out how we plan to restore, in a phased way, greater normality to our everyday lives.

Our principles and approach

The COVID crisis has been characterised by complexity and uncertainty in all its aspects, as recently shown by the emergence of the new variants. The restrictions that we have lived with since March 2020 have been extensive but necessary in order to limit transmission of the virus as far as possible.

From the start of the crisis, we have set out our intention to be open and transparent about the options and approach for tackling the epidemic in Scotland. We must also recognise that, while the pandemic remains a global health crisis, its impacts are far-reaching. Our approach to tackling the epidemic in Scotland has been based around mitigating four key harms, with the overall priority to suppress the virus:

  • Harm 1: the virus causes direct and tragic harm to people's health. We must suppress the virus
  • Harm 2: the virus has a wider impact on our health and social care services, and our wider health and wellbeing. We must support broader health
  • Harm 3: the measures necessary to protect us from the virus can in turn cause harm to our broader way of living and society. We must mitigate social harms
  • Harm 4: protective measures have a damaging effect on our prosperity. We must support the economy

All these harms are interrelated and require difficult choices and judgement in determining priorities, some of which cannot always follow a simple comparison of risks. However, in making decisions about future measures, we have weighed up not just the transmission risk inherent in different settings and activities, but also the impacts on broader health and well-being, society and the economy.

This Framework sets out how we will take a whole-system approach to suppressing the virus, while all the time seeking to minimise broader harms. In particular, we will provide support to individuals, particularly those most at risk through health or social inequalities, and ensure that businesses have the support they need to get through the crisis, within the resources available to us.

We recognise that our approach can only succeed with cooperation from local authorities, stakeholders and others and we will seek to develop a wide understanding of and support for our approach. We are grateful to the Scottish Parliament’s COVID-19 Committee for the outreach and engagement it has undertaken on the Scottish Government’s response to the crisis, including through the Citizens’ Panel, which has helped to inform this Framework. We will continue to engage with the Committee and the Scottish Parliament as a whole as we take our next steps and we  will continue to be guided by the principles and approach set out in our Framework for Decision Making, as set out below:

Our approach

Our approach will continue to be to:

  • suppress the virus through compliance, with physical distancing and hygiene measures, ensuring the reproduction number remains below 1 and our NHS remains within capacity
  • care for those who need it, whether infected by the virus or not
  • do everything we can to support people, business and organisations
  • recover as a society and an economy, carefully easing restrictions when safe to do so while maintaining necessary measures and ensuring that transmission remains controlled, supported by developments in medicine and technology
  • protect against this and future pandemics, including through effective testing, contact tracing and isolation
  • renew our country, building a fairer and more sustainable economy and society

Our decision-making

Our decision making will always be guided by clear principles:

  • safe: We will ensure that transmission of the virus remains suppressed and that our NHS and care services are not overwhelmed
  • lawful: We will respect the rule of law which will include ensuring that any restrictions are justified, necessary and proportionate
  • evidence-based: We will use the best available evidence and analysis
  • fair and ethical: We will uphold the principles of human dignity, autonomy, respect and equality
  • clear: We will provide clarity to the public to enable compliance, engagement and accountability
  • realistic: We will consider the viability and effectiveness of options
  • collective: We will work with partners and stakeholders, including Local Authorities, the UK Government and other Devolved Nations, ensuring we meet the needs of Scotland



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