The First Minister said from Friday stay local rules are being dropped in Scotland, and six people from six different households will be allowed to meet outdoors – with under-12s not included in the numbers.
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that that non-essential shops will be allowed to open from April 26 – and boasted there will also be limited hospitality permitted indoors, three weeks earlier than in England.
The move, announced at a briefing in Edinburgh, could increase pressure on Boris Johnson to accelerate the pace south of the border.
However, the PM insisted earlier that although infections and deaths are tumbling people must still be ‘cautious’ about using new-found freedoms.
The Scottish Tories pointed out that Ms Sturgeon’s previous plan was ‘slow’ and welcomed her recognition it was ‘safe’ to go faster.
Nicola Sturgeon today declared she is speeding up Scotland’s lockdown roadmap saying there is ‘every reason for optimism’ amid the vaccine rollout
The move, announced at a briefing in Edinburgh, could increase pressure on Boris Johnson (pictured jogging today) to accelerate the pace south of the border
Ms Sturgeon said ‘significant progress’ has been made in reducing the number of Covid-19 cases in Scotland.
Figures are now at their lowest since September, and have fallen by 40 per cent in the past two weeks.
‘We are now extremely confident that those parts of the country currently in Level 4 will move to Level 3 on April 26, that’s now less that two weeks away,’ she said.
‘That means, amongst other things, that on that day shops will fully reopen, pubs, cafes and restaurants will also be able to fully open outdoors on April 26 and will be able to open indoors on that date, but on a restricted basis.’
Ms Sturgeon swiped that it was ‘worth noting’ the indoor element for hospitality was ‘three weeks ahead’ of what is slated to happen in England.
The First Minister also announced that, while Scotland’s islands would be able to move to Level 2, the decision has been made to align them with the rest of the country to stop the need for travel restrictions to the islands.
Travel to other parts of Britain will be allowed from April 26.
But Ms Sturgeon warned against complacency as Scotland continues to tackle the virus, saying: ‘We’ve got to be careful not to do too much all at once, because we don’t want the virus quickly gaining ground again, particularly because this new variant is we know more infectious and setting us all back.’
Ms Sturgeon warned that international travel still represents a ‘significant risk’.
She said she hoped restrictions on going abroad could be agreed ‘on a four nations basis’.
She said: ‘I know this is difficult but it is important for me to stress it – international travel does remain a significant risk, particularly given the acceleration of spread that we’re seeing in may other parts of the world and given the possibility and indeed the reality of new variants and the risk of the virus and new variants of the virus being imported into Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon said ‘significant progress’ has been made in reducing the number of Covid-19 cases in Scotland
‘It may well be the case that we do have to endure restrictions on international travel for a bit longer as the price we pay for much greater normality here in Scotland.’
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: ‘Nicola Sturgeon appears to have listened to what we and others have been saying about Scotland’s slow emergence from lockdown.
‘After the cruel false dawn of the previous easing of restrictions and seeing other parts of the world plunged into a third lockdown, we cannot afford to get this wrong.
‘But the data clearly suggests it is safe to move more quickly and with greater optimism.
‘Scotland’s hospitality sector is on its knees and that is compounded by seeing equivalent businesses across the border reopening sooner. Every day that doors stay closed, more jobs are lost.
‘This positive direction of travel is possible thanks to the immense sacrifices people continue to make but the game-changer is the UK’s extraordinary vaccine programme.’