Scotland’s First Minister has announced churches will be able to re-open for communal worship, but not until after Easter.
In a Holyrood statement setting out Scotland’s roadmap to exit lockdown, Nicola Sturgeon said communal worship will be permitted to resume from Monday 5 April, or “a few days earlier” to take account of Easter and Passover.
However, the number of worshippers allowed to gather will again be restricted to just 20, regardless of building size.
In the document setting out its plans, the Scottish Government says that it recognises “the importance of individual and group worship to many people’s spiritual health and general wellbeing”.
But churches will only be allowed to re-open when stay-at-home requirements are lifted, and only on a “restricted numbers basis”.
Gatherings will therefore be limited to 20 people, as was the case for Level 4 areas before the current lockdown began on 8 January.
However, children have already started to return to school and colleges and universities will have seen a partial return of students weeks before the ban on public worship is lifted.
The First Minister said more restrictions may be lifted on 26 April “assuming the data allows it”.
This would allow churches in Level 3 areas and below to accommodate up to 50 people, though those in Level 4 will still be restricted to just 20.
Earlier this month, a group of 27 church leaders was granted permission for a judicial review over the closure of places of worship in Scotland under Covid-19 measures and a full hearing has been fixed for 11 and 12 March.