It will be permissible for places of worship to hold services after 15 July as the process of unlockdown continues.

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement to the Scottish Parliament today (Thursday July 9) that places of worship could re-open for congregational services, communal prayer and contemplation with physical distancing and limited numbers.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “The place of faith in the life of many people in the Western Isles is of deep importance.  It has been a strange and completely unprecedented situation to have churches and other places of worship closed for four months.

"I know that today’s announcement that public worship will be possible again after 15 July will be a very welcome one, not least to many people who have contacted me about this issue. I have raised the issue with government, as I know have many of my colleagues.

 “Obviously there will have to be continuing rules about social distancing, including the taking of names at the door of places of worship. There are good reasons for this, which people will appreciate, as everyone wants to be able to trace quickly the contacts of anyone in future who shows symptoms of Covid 19.

“Churches and faith communities have overwhelmingly been very understanding of the reasons for the current restrictions, which have applied to all large public indoor gatherings. I know that, as the virus begins to be brought under control in Scotland, people in the islands want to move cautiously on a slow road out of lockdown.  Ensuring people’s right to public worship is an important part of that.”

And UKHospitality has welcomed today’s announcement on the reopening of Scotland’s hospitality sector.

The First Minister confirmed today that the country will enter phase three of lockdown tomorrow with indoor areas of pubs, restaurants and holiday accommodation opening on 15 July, subject to conditions. Scottish Government guidance on these is expected to be published tomorrow (Friday 10 July).

Indoor hospitality will be granted an exemption from the two-metre social distancing rule, depending on the implementation of mitigating measures such as clear information, revised seating plans and improved ventilation.

UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “This is great news for hospitality and tourism in Scotland. Venues will be eager to open their doors and welcome customers once again. Many of them will have learned valuable lessons this week opening up their outdoor areas and they will feel confident they can keep staff and customers secure.

“The additional flexibility around social distancing will be a huge help for businesses that need as much support as they can get. Venues will be diligent in their preparations and every step will be taken to ensure staff and customers are safe.