Ruth Maguire MSP has welcomed reassurances given to local constituents from the First Minister that exemptions to travel restrictions apply to people who have caring responsibilities.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the clarification today in the Scottish Parliament following her update on changes to restrictions by local authority area. 

While the West of Scotland and Central Belt will remain in level 3 of the five tier framework, positive progress in driving down infections was noted.

The SNP MSP for Cunninghame South said: “It’s positive to note that measures in place in Scotland are starting to have the intended effect and I appreciate the vast majority of the public understand the need for caution, particularly in light of increasing cases across the world.

“I’ve had a number of constituents with caring responsibilities contact me about advice not to travel outside your own local authority area except for essential purposes. Would the First Minister take this opportunity to reassure them that taking care of loved ones is considered essential and outline what other exceptions to the travel guidance there are.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I understand people’s anxieties over this. Exemptions are set out in the guidance which is available on the Scottish Government website.

“If you have to deliver food or other care to somebody who’s old or vulnerable, if you have childcare reasons for travel. If you have to travel because of where you live, a reasonable distance, perhaps a few miles, outside your local authority for exercise or if you have to do the same for essential shopping, these are the kind of exemptions that exist.

“North Ayrshire is one of the areas where we are seeing cautions signs for optimism. It’s down to the sacrifices people across North Ayrshire and elsewhere across Scotland are making.”

Providing further comment, Ruth Maguire said: “I appreciate the comments made by the First Minister and hope that local residents who are anxious about their caring responsibilities for loved ones are assured that exemptions to travel are in place to allow for them to continue to provide care.

“The guidelines are in place to ensure that the virus is not allowed to spread from areas of high prevalence to areas of low prevalence in order to maintain the flexible approach to restrictions the five tier framework allows. I’d like to urge residents to continue to follow these travel guidelines where exemptions do not apply to them.

“The positive 12% decrease in cases in North Ayrshire is encouraging news. With everybody’s continued co-operation, we will hopefully see sustained progress which will allow us to move out of level 3 restrictions.”

Providing her update to Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Throughout this pandemic, I’ve tried not to give false assurance – instead, I’ve done my best to be straight about the challenge we face.

“I’m going to stick with that approach – not least because, as will be obvious from my statement today, we do still face tough times ahead. But there are also grounds for optimism. We are not at the end of the tunnel yet, but a glimmer of light has appeared.

“Yesterday’s news from the Pfizer vaccine trial was extremely encouraging. And that is not the only vaccine undergoing trials just now. Of course, there are questions still to be answered and hurdles yet to be overcome, and it will take time to get large numbers of people vaccinated.

“But this was the most positive indication yet that science will get us out of this – and it will hopefully do so in the not too distant future. That is good news. Of course, even the not too distant future is still the future. That means, for now, it is down to all of us to keep the virus under control and save lives, by sticking to the rules and guidance.”

Ruth’s question to the First Minister can be viewed in full below: