SCOTLAND'S political parties have welcomed publication of the Scottish Government’s framework for easing lockdown measures, but they insisted saving lives remains the top priority.

Reaction to the release of the report suggesting restrictions could be lifted in a “phased and careful manner” has been largely positive, despite a split down constitutional lines.

Unionist parties believe action taken in Scotland should be part of a UK-wide strategy where appropriate to ensure a clear and consistent public health message, while the Scottish Greens argue decisions should be based on scientific advice and “local circumstances”.

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw claimed divergence from a UK-wide strategy would require “compelling evidence”, and said: “The priority remains to save lives, protect the NHS and social care system and ensure the ongoing protection and welfare of vulnerable groups.

“We should begin on a phased basis to restore non-essential public services and amenities and enable people to return to work, consistent with ensuring the achievement of the first three priorities.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “It is right to consider a phased approach to lifting the lockdown, and this must be based on the principle that saving lives and securing the health of people across Scotland must take priority over commercial interests.

“We also cannot afford to give up on cross-border co-operation, because if the lockdown is lifted in England before it is safe, then we will be putting lives in Scotland at risk.

“We cannot allow the lockdown to be lifted in Scotland, in part or in whole, before there is clear clinical evidence to demonstrate that doing so will not endanger lives.

“This will require wide-scale testing way beyond what the Scottish Government is currently carrying out, so it is crucial that we get to work now.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The UK-wide approach that has been adopted has been broadly effective at keeping the public health guidance clear.

“It is important that the Scottish Government backs up the need for clarity.

Liberal Democrats are prepared to contemplate different measures for different parts of Scotland and the UK, but we are not prepared to support being different for its own sake.

“There is a risk from confused messages from different governments and that has to be avoided to help keep people safe.

“We reject the knee-jerk reaction that the exit strategy either has to be different from the UK or must stay exactly the same as the UK. It is a balance.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie called for more testing as part of the exit strategy and added: “I’m pleased that the Scottish Government is responding with open discussion, especially when public trust in processes is key. It’s clear we are not in a position to ease lockdown measures anytime soon.

“I also welcome the recognition that a one-size-fits all exit strategy for the UK is inappropriate and instead we should base decisions on the science and local circumstances.”

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