TOUGH legal rules curbing travel in and out of Scotland and around many parts of the country will come into effect this evening as the Scottish Government ramps up efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Under the new law travel to and from the Republic of Ireland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland is banned unless for an essential reason.

MSPs last night voted by 99 to 23 to support new Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland, involving tougher measures in 11 council areas – including Glasgow – and a travel ban for the worst-hit areas.

Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the new legal restriction on Tuesday when she announced that more than two million people would move into level 4 – the tier closest to the lockdown situation in spring – from 6pm tonight.

Ten areas, including Edinburgh, Dundee and Fife, will continue on level 3. At the same time, a travel ban will come into force with anyone who ignores the law facing minimum £60 fixed penalties.

On the cross border restrictions, the regulations state: "Restrictions on leaving or entering Scotland: common travel area

"Restrictions on leaving Scotland

"1.—(1) A person who lives in Scotland must not leave Scotland for the purpose of entering or remaining in a place within the common travel area mentioned in paragraph 4.

"(2) But a person who lives in Scotland may travel through such a place in order to reach another destination.

"(3) This paragraph is without prejudice to the restrictions in Part 4 of schedule 4 and Part 4 of schedule 5.

"Restrictions on entering Scotland

"2.—(1) A person who lives in a place within the common travel area mentioned in paragraph 4 must not enter or remain in Scotland.

"(2) But a person who does not live in Scotland may travel through Scotland in order to reach a place outwith Scotland."

The draft regulations, passed by Holyrood, also state that the new restrictions apply to "the common travel area" of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

There are a set of exemptions which are the same for both cross border travel and travel within level 3 and level 4 areas of Scotland, and include travelling for reasons such as work or education.

Guidance accompanying the draft regulations says: “People who live in a level 3 or 4 local authority area in Scotland are now required to stay in that area unless they have a reasonable excuse to travel, such as work, education, or welfare reasons.”

It adds: “Going on holiday, including abroad, is not a reasonable excuse to leave. If it has been announced that your local authority area is about to move into either level 3 or 4 please do not then travel overseas for non-essential reasons such as a holiday.”

However, people will be able to leave a level 4 lockdown council under law for reasons including work.

People can also leave level 3 or 4 areas and cross the border for exercise – if it’s within five miles of their local authority boundary.

And people can travel through level 3 or 4 areas to get to other areas, or to get to another part of their own area.

A list of exemptions are set out in regulations as “examples of reasonable excuse”.

The development comes as the First Minister announced a fall in the R number in Scotland indicates current restrictions to tackle the virus are working. But she stressed regional variations across the country justify the need for the more restrictive measures that will be implemented from this evening.

She spoke as she gave an update on Covid-19 to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, reporting 50 deaths of people in the previous 24 hours.

It brings the total number of fatalities under that measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 3427.

Telling MSPs the R number is now “very slightly below 1”, she said: “That indicates that the current tough measures that have been in place have had an effect.”

But she said there are still regional variations, adding: “In those parts of the country with the highest prevalence we’ve not yet seen as significant or as rapid a fall in cases as we need to.

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“That is why we have taken the decision to move 11 local authority areas into level 4 from 6pm tomorrow until Friday, December 11.”

Under level 4 measures, non-essential shops will be forced to close, along with bars and restaurants.

Sturgeon stressed this is a “difficult decision” but added: “In the situation we face, in common with much of the rest of the world, the job of government must be to do what is necessary to save lives and protect health, even when we know these decisions will not be welcome.”

The First Minister said moving the council areas to level 4 is “necessary to reduce the loss of life and serious illness”. She added the move will help protect the NHS over the winter and “allow people, albeit in a limited and careful way, the prospect of being able to spend some time with loved ones over the Christmas period”.

Sturgeon urged people to abide by the rules “as part of our collective efforts to get through the rest of this pandemic with as little harm to health and loss of life as possible”.

Meanwhile, she said a “concrete” plan for gatherings to take place at Christmas could be revealed as early as next week.

She told MSPs the chief medical officers of all four UK nations have been asked to compile a proposal for how the easing of some restrictions would work. It comes after discussions were held between Michael Gove and the devolved administrations on Wednesday.

She said the proposal could be made public “in the coming days”.

“We discussed the Christmas period and how we could come to a sensible – and I stress sensible – and safe plan that would allow people, not 100% normality, but a greater degree of normality – in particular the ability to spend some time with loved ones,” she said.

“We charged our officials – advised by our respective chief medical officers – to put together a concrete proposal that we will then consider and hopefully announce the detail of in the coming days. I would hope ... we could share that with the public over the course of next week.”

Sturgeon added that due to the spread of families, she is “determined” to come to a four-nation agreement.

She added: “We are all determined to, as best as we possibly can, strike the right balance between the understandable desire, which I share, to see family over the Christmas period – which is so special to so many of us – but also to do that in a way that does not lead to increased loss of life and increased harm to health over the January period.”