As the Scottish Government announces its roadmap for ending the lockdown and reopening the country, when will churches be able to reopen?

As part of the Scottish Government’s scheduled review of the lockdown measures, the First Minister outlined that restrictions would remain in place at least until March. The previous review of the restrictions was held in mid-January and decided to extend the restrictions until mid-February. These restrictions have seen pubs and shops close as well as a general stay-at-home order. For details on the current restrictions, please see our January lockdown update and our COVID-19 church hub. Despite advances in both testing and vaccinations, the First Minister announced that the rate of infections and the rate of deaths were still too high to risk reducing restrictions at this point. However, it has been announced that there will be a gradual return to schools for some primary school children later this month.

The roadmap out of lockdown

Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, announced this week that the Scottish Government’s consideration of relaxing the rules depended on two aspects: the weekly positive cases consistently falling to below 50 per 100,000 people, and the percentage of people testing positive consistently falling below five per cent. So, how close are we to this?

Scotland’s weekly positive cases have seen a steady decline since their peak in mid-January of around 300. As of the beginning of February, this number lies just above 100. It is worth noting that the last time this figure fell below 50 per 100,000 people was in October 2020.

Scotland’s positive test rate has been similarly falling since the mid-January peak of just below 12 per cent but has still not reached this five per cent target. As of the beginning of February, this figure stands around seven to ten per cent; we’re currently in an encouraging trend but Scotland still has a way to go.



Many people within the wider church are wondering when restrictions for places of worship are going to be eased and when they will be able to resume in-person worship. We, as well as other faith organisations, have been in close conversation with the Scottish Government throughout this season and will continue to be so during the easing of the lockdown.

In January, we received a letter from Aileen Campbell, Scottish cabinet secretary for Communities and Local Government, following churches being asked not to meet in person during the lockdown. In this letter, Ms Campbell said:

I appreciate how hard this is for faith communities and want to assure you that places of worship will be amongst the first sectors to be seriously considered for any easing of restrictions.

I would like to thank you all for the measures you have put in place to protect and support your congregations since the first lockdown in March 2020, and for all of the work you continue to do to help your communities through these difficult times.

I understand and appreciate the significant role communal worship plays in supporting people’s mental and spiritual well-being, and its importance as a lifeline for many in preventing social isolation and loneliness. We do not want to keep these measures in place a minute longer than is necessary.”

Whilst little has been directly stated by the Scottish Government about the reopening of churches when restrictions begin to ease, we do know that churches will likely be first in line to see a reduction of restrictions after this lockdown.