AS Scotland takes a major step towards reopening its economy today, a professor explained how the nation got to this point.

While England opened pubs, restaurants and other hospitality establishments at the beginning of July, Scotland waited until today to take the same steps.

Professor Stephen Reicher, a professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews, told BBC Radio 5 Live why the extra time taken to emerge from lockdown has been key to the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 elimination strategy.

READ MORE: Coronavirus LIVE: Scotland's hotels, pubs, hairdressers and restaurants open

Reicher told the programme that it was important to remember that Scotland and England began the pandemic as part of a four-nations strategy to fight the virus.

Similar “mistakes” were made north and south of the Border initially, he says,  from locking down “too late”, to slow testing, to taking people out of hospitals and putting them into care homes - something he argues “was, as most people would now admit, disastrous”.

The professor said: “I think lots of mistakes were made. Not least because we were learning about the disease and we didn’t realise for instance the degree of asymptomatic transmission. So we’ll all make mistakes, no people do it perfectly.”

But, he stressed: “The important thing is to learn from your mistakes.”

Reicher explained how Scotland and England began to diverge from mid-May, with the crucial moment being when Boris Johnson changed the “stay at home” message to “stay alert”, but the Scottish Government maintained its original slogan.

Addressing economic changes in recent weeks, the professor said it is “very important” to open things up again safely to make people feel confident in going to shops and other public places after months of lockdown.

Reicher said: “A lot of people talk about a trade-off between public health and the economy. But I think one of the arguments being made in Scotland is unless you drive down the level of deaths and the level of infection to near elimination then when you open up number one, you threaten the possibility of spikes in the infection which will then lead you to close down again which would be bad for the economy and secondly, people will be more confident to go out.

“One of the things we’ve seen in England is although pubs and restaurants and other places have been opened up, people are still concerned, they’re still anxious. The levels of economic activity, the so-called U-shape recovery or V-shape recovery isn’t actually happening so it’s very important to get to a stage when we open things up, we open things up safely, we open things up in a way that people are confident to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Overall, the professor said, it seems “it is a matter of slow and cautious is winning the race”. He pointed to figures showing coronavirus infections in England hover at about 10 per million. Meanwhile in Scotland, the level is about one per million.

Reicher continued: “Many people will say too many virologists and epidemiologists and I’m not a virologist or an epidemiologist I’m a behavioural scientist, but the people I sit with tell me they would consider that to be close to an elimination level and close to a level where you can begin to open with some confidence.”

From today people in Scotland are able to drink in a pub, eat a meal in a restaurant, get their hair cut, and visit some museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries – all with new safety measures in place.