Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not “countenance” people being intimidated into going back to work in offices.
Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing, the first minister said reopening offices too soon would risk the virus spreading and compromise the ability to keep schools open.
“I will not countenance in Scotland any kind of narrative around this that is seeking to almost intimidate people back to work before, as a country, we have taken a decision that that is safe,” she said.
The UK government is planning a newspaper and television blitz to get people back into the office, with an unnamed source suggesting to the Telegraph that those opting to keep working from home could make themselves more “vulnerable” to redundancy in any post-Covid business shake-ups.
The government’s move to push people back to workplaces comes despite the huge benefit remote working has in helping to tackle the climate crisis.
During the lockdown in the UK, the lack of machinery, computers, lights and heaters being used in industry, offices and schools, and a reduction in electric rail, tram and Tube services led to weekday electricity demand falling to its lowest levels since 1982. It was reported in May that, during lockdown, there was a 35% reduction in carbon emissions from British power production on the same period last year.
A recent study in Nature Climate Change warned that the global lockdown will have a “negligible” impact on rising temperatures overall but a green recovery involving a sustained reduction in carbon emissions could avert dangerous climate breakdown.
Sturgeon said people should not be told they risk being sacked if they do not go back to the office.
She said “we want to get back to normal as quickly as possible” and her government will work in a “phased way” to support the return of offices that have not yet reopened.
But she added: “That has to be done in the context of suppressing the virus.”
Campaigns which say those working from home have less job security put “pressure on individual workers that is not fair”, she said.
She also told the briefing that 51 new coronavirus cases have been recorded in Scotland in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 20,107.
She said a walk-in Covid-19 test centre will open at Victory Memorial Hall in St Andrews, Fife, in a bid to make testing more accessible and available.
Six such facilities will be created before the end of September in areas with a high student population, the first minister said, coinciding with the return of universities and colleges.
Sturgeon also confirmed a £59m package of support for the culture and heritage sectors.
The funding comes from the £97m given to the Scottish government through the Barnett formula, based on spending by the UK government.
Theatres, galleries, comedy clubs, music venues and nightclubs are among the groups eligible for the new fund, with information on how to apply to be released next week.
The first minister said: “The culture and heritage sectors are, of course, hugely important to our economy, but they’re also really important to our wellbeing and happiness as a country.
“They’ve been very hard hit by this pandemic and we’re determined to do everything we reasonably can to support them.”
Funding will also be made available for Historic Environment Scotland, as well as support for freelancers, the development of new creative work, independent cinemas and youth arts.
Also speaking during the briefing, Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone addressed new powers given to officers from 28 August to disperse large indoor gatherings.
Livingstone said it is “vital” people stick to the rules, which have outlawed gatherings of 15 or more people indoors.
He said: “In essence, don’t arrange or attend large house parties, please meet in smaller groups.”
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