What are the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rules in Scotland Right Now?

Last Updated on 14/09/2021 at 15:00

Click on items in the list below to skip to the most up to date information on coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention, symptoms and restrictions in Scotland.

What's the current advice on...?

Preventing COVID-19

The Scottish Government's advice on what we should do to stay safe is:

Symptoms of COVID-19

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms.

If you have any of these symptoms you should self isolate immediately and book a test. 

When to self-isolate

Self-isolation is when you do not leave your home because you have or might have coronavirus (COVID-19). This helps stop the virus from spreading to other people.

If you have any of the symptoms of coronavirus you should begin to self-isolate immediately for 10 days.

You should also self-isolate if:

  • you have symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • you’ve had a positive test result, even if you aren't experiencing symptoms
  • someone you live with has symptoms but has not yet been tested or received their test result
  • you're told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of someone has tested postive, until you're able to take a test

If you're experiencing symptoms, you should book a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.

Close contacts of positive cases should book a test as soon as possible, and self-isolate while waiting for the result.

As a close contact, you can end self-isolation if you:

  • are fully vaccinated - this means you’ve received 2 doses from the NHS and have had your second dose more than 14 days ago,
  • receive a negative PCR test result, and
  • do not have, or develop symptoms.

Five to 17 year olds who are not vaccinated and identified as a close contact can end their self-isolation after a negative PCR test. There is no requirement for under-5s to self-isolate.

Getting tested for COVID-19

If you begin to experience symptoms of coronavirus, you must self-isolate for 10 days, beginning immediately.

You must book a test within the first 5 days of experiencing symptoms to provide the most accurate results, ideally within the first 3 days.

  • If you've been experiencing symptoms for 1-4 days already, you can book a home test to be delivered to you or you can visit a test site. If you're booking a home test kit on the fourth day of having symptoms, you need to book your test by 3pm
  • If you've been experiencing symptoms for up to 5 days already, you can book a test for any of your local drive-in sites. 

You must post a home test just after you've taken it, making sure it's in before the mail is collected from your local post box that evening.

If you're on your fifth day of experiencing symptoms, you won't be able to get a test and you should self-isolate for 10 days from when you first got symptoms. 

You can find information on who can be tested when you must test and how to get a test at a drive-in site or sent to your home on the NHS UK website.

From 26th April, COVID-19 home testing kits, also know as Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs), are available to everyone living in Scotland who doesn't have coronavirus symptoms or who hasn't been told to self-isolate.

You should also not use this rapid LFD testing if:

  • you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous 90 days
  • you can get tested through your workplace or education setting (ask them for rapid LFD tests)
  • you need to take a test for international travel.

You need to be 18 or over to collect or order the test kits. Anyone aged 12 to 17 should ask an adult to collect or order a test kit for them, they should then self-test and report their result under adult supervision. Regular testing is not recommended for children who go to primary school, or who are younger than primary school age.

You can collect LFD tests from your nearest test centre between 3.30pm and 8pm and do not need an appointment.

You can also order online on the UK Government website.

Read everything you need to know about the tests on the Scottish Government website.

Getting your vaccination

From Tuesday the 10th of August all health boards in mainland Scotland will be able to offer drop-in vaccinations for anyone aged 16 and 17. Eligible young people in Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles will be contacted by their health board and invited to attend clinics.

16 and 17 year old's will be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Anyone aged 18+ can also visit a drop-in centre for vaccination. The drop-in service will be available to anyone who hasn't received their first dose yet or if it's been over 8 weeks since your first dose. You can still use this service if you already have an appointment for a vaccine booked or if you've not received any appointment so far.

You will be able to go to the most convenient drop-in clinic for you regardless of where you are registered.

Find out where your local vaccination drop-in service is by visiting NHS Inform.

Anyone aged over 18 years old can also self-register for a vaccination appointment.

Find all the information and contact details you need to register for your vaccine or rearrange an appointment at NHS Inform.

Young people aged 12 to 15

The Scottish Government have confirmed that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be offered to all 12-15 year olds who have not already been offered vaccination.

You will be supported with information needed to help you make an informed decision about getting vacinated, you should look at this information and speak about the decision with your parents and carers to help you make a decision that is right for you.

From Monday 20th September, drop-in clinics will be open for 12-15 year olds to get vaccinated.

From Monday 27th September, letters will be sent out to all 12-15 year olds with an invitation to arrange a vaccine appointment.

A vaccine programme will also be introduced in schools to offer the vaccine to anyone who has not yet had it but would like to get one.

Visit our vaccine page for more information and to hear from other young people about their vaccine experiences.

Booster Programme

The Joint Commission on Vaccinations and Immunisation advice on booster jabs has been accepted by the Scottish Government, which means the following people will be eligible for a booster jab:

  • Those living in residential care homes for older adults
  • All adults aged 50 years or over
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • All those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19
  • Adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals

The JCVI have recommended that there is a gap of at least six months between getting the second dose of the vaccine and getting a booster.

Frontline Health and Social care workers can book their appointment through the NHS Inform website from Monday 20th September. 

What are the levels and which is my local authority in?

There is a 5-level system in place in Scotland where a Local Protection Level is assigned to your area depending on the spread of coronavirus where you live.

From Monday 9th August, all of Scotland has moved beyond Level 0 and the majority of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, with some exceptions in schools.

Find out more about what this framework means, what happens at each level and what level your local authority is in.

Physical distancing

Physical or social distancing means taking steps to help reduce the spread of infection and to reduce the number of people becoming unwell with coronavirus (COVID-19).

As of Monday 9th August, there is no legal requirement to physically distance from others.

See the information below about visiting hospitality venues.

Wearing face coverings

Wearing a face covering or mask can help prevent catching coronavirus, and passing it on to others.

Due to the current enhanced restrictions in place in mainland Scotland, the face-covering guidance would apply in places like public transport or supermarkets, however, there are extra-legal requirements for wearing face coverings that currently apply regardless of the Level in your area, these are listed below.

Places you must wear a face-covering:

  • On public transport such as buses, trains and trams and taxi services, and in airports, bus and train stations.
  • Supermarkets and retail shops, including beauty salons, pharmacies and take-aways.
  • Hospitality venues such as restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs when moving around (entering the venue, leaving, going to the bathroom).
  • Other indoor public places, like libraries or places of worship.
  • At school in communal spaces and in the classroom. Find out more about wearing a face covering at school.
  • At workplaces in communal areas such as in corridors or when walking around a workplace canteen.

See the full list of places you must wear a face mask or covering on the Scottish Government website.

People under five and those with certain medical conditions are exempt from wearing face coverings. Find out more on the Scottish Government website.

For those who are exempt, you don't need to provide any proof of this but if it would make you feel safer or more comfortable in public then you can request an exemption card by filling out an online form or calling 0800 121 6240.

If necessary, the police can issue fines of £60 (halving to £30 if paid within 28 days) if you don't comply with this law without a reasonable excuse; such as being exempt due to a health concern or communicating with someone hard of hearing, who lip-reads.

More regulations that extend the wearing of face coverings are being written up. These will focus on indoor communal settings including, for example, staff canteens and corridors in workplaces.

Check-In Scotland app

This is a digital service to help you log your details with businesses and venues that you visit in order to help the NHS Test and Protect team trace you if you have come into close contact with someone there who later tests positive for COVID-19.

The Check-In Scotland app can be downloaded through the Apple Play Store and the Google Play Store for anyone aged over 12.

Thousands of places have signed up to use the process already, including:

  • pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes
  • tourism and leisure businesses, such as theme parks, museums and cinemas
  • close contact services, including hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattooists, sports and massage therapists
  • services run by local councils, such as libraries, leisure centres and registration offices
  • cremation authorities, burial authorities, places of worship or funeral director service rooms offering funeral services
  • places of worship

It works by scanning a QR inside participating venues using your mobile phone camera or a QR scanning app, this will then take you to an online form or the app if you have it downloaded where you can fill out your details and 'check in'. You then check out when you leave and the NHS will use that information to work out if you have been there at the same time as someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.

If you have been in close contact with a positive case, you will get alerted by text, email or letter providing you have provided these details when filling out the form. It will give you some advice about what you should do next.

The service is designed to take as few details from you as needed. These details will be kept securely for 21 days before being deleted, unless someone who's part of the NHS Test and Protect response team needs to keep them for longer for public health reasons.

For more information, check out this useful article on the mygov.scot site.

Vaccine passports

On 1st October 2021, Scotland will introduce a mandatory vaccine certification scheme which will mean from that date you will need to show proof that you have been fully vaccinated in order to enter nightclubs and many large events.

The scheme will apply to people aged 18 and over, and double vaccination proof will be required to attend:

  • Nightclubs and adult entertainment venues
  • Unseated indoor live events, with more than 500 people in the audience
  • Unseated outdoor live events, with more than 4,000 people in the audience
  • Any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance

Currently, you can request proof of vaccination from the NHS either digitally or on a paper copy where a QR code holds the information that you have had both vaccine doses. Details are still being worked out by the Scottish Government but it is hoped that by the time the scheme launches this information will be available through a new NHS app.

Anyone who has good reasons for not getting fully vaccinated - including children and people with particular medical conditions - will be exempt.

Meeting people

As of Monday 9th August there are no restrictions on how many people you can meet in your house or someone else's, in an indoor public place or outdoors.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

Using public transport & travelling

Current rules for travelling are:

When using public transport and attending train stations and bus stations in Scotland, you must wear a face-covering unless exempt.

As of Monday 9th August, there will be no travel restrictions in place within Scotland, other than international quarantine rules.

Find out more about Scotland's Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

International travel

From May 17th, Scotland will be operating under a traffic light system for international travel which determines what you have to do when you enter the country, such as self-isolation and testing.

You need to wear a face-covering on planes and at airports (unless exempt) with physical distancing.,

Since July 19th, if you arrive in Scotland from an Amber country, you do not need to isolate if you've had two COVID-19 vaccinations through the NHS and will require a PCR test on the 2nd day after your arrival.

From 4am on Monday 2nd August, travellers from Amber list countries in the EU or US who have been fully vaccinated in their country at least 14 whole days before arrival, will not have to isolate when arriving in Scotland. They will still need to take a PCR test on their 2nd day after arrival as fell as a negative lateral flow or PCR test pre-departure.

Some changes specifically for young people will also apply from August 2nd:

  • Children under 18 who are ordinarily resident in the US and EU will be exempt from isolation
  • Those under five years old do not need to test at all
  • Children between the ages of five and 10 will only need to complete a PCR test on day two after arrival

None of the changes implemented on July 19th and August 2nd applies to France.

Find out more about the international travel restrictions and traffic light system on the Scottish Government website.

Living in student accommodation

Students are being encouraged by Scottish Government to take a PCR test before moving to term time accommodation, and to take an LFD test twice a week thereafter.

If you're living in student accommodation or are due to move in, in advance of starting your university or college course, some of the restrictions can be slightly confusing.

Your flatmates, if you have any, are part of your household and you should follow the same guidelines as above.

Currently, there are specific laws in place regarding your tenancy and notice period.

  • Students who have entered into a student residential tenancy before 27 May 2020 and have occupied the property, can give 7 days’ notice to their accommodation provider
  • Students who have already entered into a student residential tenancy before 27 May 2020 but have not yet occupied the property, can give 28 days’ notice to their accommodation provider
  • Students who enter into a student residential tenancy after 27 May 2020 can give 28 days’ notice to their accommodation provider.

This will be in place until 30th September 2021.

You can find out more about student accommodation in Scotland, including financial support, during COVID-19 on Student Information Scotland's website.

Going to work

The current advice is that all workers should continue to work at home where it is practical to do so.

The First Minister, during an update on July 13th and upon announcing the move to Level 0 for the whole of Scotland from July 19th, confirmed that workers would still be required to work from home if possible beyond moving to Level 0. This would be revised regularly and phased out over time, but will remain in place after August 9th if data indicates this.

More information about what to expect if you're not able to work from home is available in our article on how workplaces will be impacted.

The Levels Framework is in place in Scotland meaning your area will have to follow the rules according to the level that has been assigned there. 

The current rules for workplaces are:

As of Monday 9th August, Scotland has moved beyond Level 0 however workplaces are still advised to continue working from home where possible.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

Visiting shops and supermarkets

When visiting local shops and supermarkets, you are required to wear a face-covering unless you are exempt.

Many larger supermarkets have in-store priority slots for those at higher risk, the elderly, NHS workers and other essential/key workers.

Retail staff must wear a face-covering too.

As of Monday 9th August, Scotland has moved beyond Level 0, but wearing a face covering inside shops and supermarkets is still a legal requirement unless exempt.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

Visiting restaurants, pubs and cafés and other hospitality venues

As of Monday 9th August, Scotland has moved beyond Level 0. Venues will continue to take contact information for Test & Protect and face covering rules will still apply, however all other restrictions have been removed.

There may be additional measures in place to minimise transmission of COVID-19, for example, hand sanitiser stations and increased ventilation. 

You will also need to wear a face-covering (unless you're exempt) when moving around, for example when entering the venue, leaving, going to the bathroom. When going to the venue, you will be asked for your contact details as part of Test and Trace.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

Visiting places of worship & life events

People attending life events such as weddings or funerals will have to wear a face-covering throughout the ceremony. However, the couple getting married or having a civil partnership will not have to wear a face mask during the ceremony, nor will anyone accompanying the couple down the aisle.

As of Monday 9th August, Scotland will move beyond Level 0 and all restrictions on visiting places of worship & life events have been removed. Face covering rules will still apply.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

Other indoor public places

The current rules at each level for leisure and entertainment venues are:

As of Monday 9th August, Scotland has moved beyond Level 0, and no venues will be required to remain closed. Indoor events with a capacity exceeding 2000 and outdoor events with a capacity exceeding 5000 will still have to apply for permission to go ahead.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

What if you're high or extremely high-risk

If you're at more of a risk of being seriously ill with COVID-19, then you may be categorised as being at high risk or extremely high risk, and may be taking your own extra precautions, or have been asked by the Scottish Government to 'shield'.

As Scotland moves beyond level zero, the Chief Medical Officer will write to those who have previously shielded with more information.

You can find this advice on the Scottish Government website.

Find out what might make you high or extremely high risk in our Coronavirus Jargonbuster.

NHS Scotland Test & Protect App

NHS Scotland has developed an app that alerts you if you've come into close contact (within 2m distance for 15 minutes or longer) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. You can also add your own positive test result to the app to alert others, but no one can see who they've come into contact with that has had COVID-19.

The app is available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store and is available to anyone aged 12 years old and over, and living in Scotland. 

Find out more about the Protect Scotland app.

More information from Young Scot on Coronavirus (COVID-19)