The Scottish Government announced on the 22nd September a series of further restrictions on household movements and on the hospitality sector as cases of coronavirus continue to rise. This is in addition to the ‘Rule of Six’ previously established which is now a legal requirement.

This last month has seen some significant opening up of activities that many churches undertake with guidance published for a variety of sectors including youth and children’s work, community learning and development (that incorporates education), outdoor events and running meetings for the recovery community. It can be a confusing and fast changing picture.

The key distinction being made by government just now is between informal social interaction and formal, organised activities in what should be Covid safe environments.

In this update we want to give some clear advice to what is and is not currently permitted as well as links to the relevant guidance. There are some areas that need interpretation where guidance can overlap and in these areas we advise churches to exercise their best judgement based on their own circumstances and conscience, and not to seek to circumvent any guidance or look for loopholes. Just because things are permissible does not mean they are all beneficial.


Crucially, any activities that take place legally must have regard to the relevant Scottish Government guidance and be planned accordingly. As always, we advise to keep checking both Scottish Government website and the Evangelical Alliance Coronavirus hub and to contact our team if you have any further specific questions.

New Restrictions

No household visits

The restrictions currently in place in the West of Scotland have been extended nationwide and household visits are now not permitted. There are exemptions to this rule for those living alone or alone with children who have formed extended households with another family, informal childcare (grandparents etc), tradespeople and unmarried couples.

Rule of six

The rule of six (from a maximum of two households) still applies to outdoor meetings and meeting indoors in non-domestic settings e.g. cafes. Church worship gatherings are exempt from this rule along with a number of other settings including youth and children’s work and formal outdoor events.

There are some outdoor exemptions for children and young people to the rule of six. Under-12s do not count towards the maximum number of households or number of people who can meet outdoors and they do not have to physically distance. A maximum of six 12 to 17 year olds can meet in outdoor spaces, with no household limit but in this case physical distancing is still required.

Hospitality curfew – 10pm

A UK-wide 10pm hospitality curfew for restaurants, cafes and bars is being introduced this week.

Legal requirement on churches to have regard to guidance

Churches (and those responsible for premises in other sectors) now have a legal requirement to have regard to Scottish Government guidance. While much of the guidance remains in legal terms advisory in status this is an important development for churches to be aware of.

New guidance

There have been a number of new guidance documents published in recent weeks. As a general rule churches use the guidance for the activity that is being planned regardless of the building used.

Where there is overlapping guidance (e.g. place of worship and children’s work guidance for Sunday Schools) churches should read both and assess which is most relevant to the activity before coming to a decision on which guidance to follow. The guidance is not designed to cover every eventuality and the onus is on the church to use wisdom and best judgement for their particular circumstances in operating safe activities.

Places of Worship

This guidance remains relatively unchanged and is not directly affected by recent restrictions. This is designed to cover acts of worship’ and as such can cover Sunday services, home groups using a church building or other building (but not a private home) and prayer meetings. The cap of 50 attendees remains in place.

Children and Young People

Guidance for Youth and children’s work can be found on the Youthlink Scotland website.There is a cap of 30 people for these activities which are also unaffected by the recent restrictions. There is also (provisional) guidance for children’s activities.

As an additional resource we were delighted to have recently helped organise through our Deep Impact network a webinar with Tim Frew, the CEO of Youthlink Scotland, to discuss the youthwork guidance. This webinar has now been viewed over 1000 times and is a great resource for those planning youth and children’s work.

Outdoor events

Guidance for organised outdoor events has now been published. Worship experiences’ are included in this, meaning a church can organise an outdoor service following this guidance for up to 200 people (seated on chairs or marked bubbles on the ground).

Community Learning and Development

Community Learning and Development guidance has now been published. This covers education or training in a non-school, college or university setting and might include courses being run by churches and training events.

Recovery Support

Guidance for safely running recovery support services has also now been published. This includes practical support for those in recovery as well as recovery meetings such as AA and other equivalent meetings.

If you have further questions about any aspect of the restrictions please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at scotland@​eauk.​org