The Scottish government have announced that believers across Scotland will be permitted to gather at places of worship from 26th March, in time for Easter.
The new plan, outlined by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday, sees a significant easing of lockdown regulations across Scotland.
Up to four adults from two households will be allowed to meet outdoors from for recreational purposes and essential exercise as of Friday 12th March.
Restrictions on younger people will be further relaxed. Twelve to 17-year-olds will be allowed to meet in groups of four from from four households, with no limit for younger children. And up to 15 people will be able to meet outside for non-contact sport and group exercise.
Communal worship in churches is expected to resume on Friday 26th March, with up to 50 worshippers allowed to attend religious services (up from Scotland’s pre-lockdown limit of 20) on condition that two-metre social distancing can be maintained.
A final decision about places of worship reopening will be taken on Tuesday 23rd March, ahead of Easter, Passover, Ramadan and Vaisakhi. The prospective opening up of places of worship was welcomed by the Church of Scotland.
“Christians are Easter people,” said Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, the Moderator of the CoS’s National Assembly. Promising that the church would provide guidance for the security of its congegation, he noted that “everyone will be glad of this news”.
Father Michael J Kane of Saint Augustine’s Chruch, in the Diocese of Motherwell tweeted his approval: “Great news that our Church will open in time for Holy Week and Easter.”
The return of worship in Scotland was previously expected on the 5th April, after Easter and Passover, causing consternation for clergy and believers across the country. Ongoing concerns have been raised about the SNP government’s handling of religious communities during the pandemic.
Labour party MSP Elaine Smith had criticized this “messy and confusing approach” to re-opening places of worship, in late February.
“It is worrying that initially, Nicola Sturgeon failed to take account of major religious festivals,” she noted in a tweet.