MAINLAND Scotland’s move to the lowest level of coronavirus restrictions will “likely” be pushed back by three weeks, the First Minister has confirmed.

Nicola Sturgeon spoke the day after Boris Johnson was forced to delay the lifting of remaining restrictions south of the Border, pushing back England’s so-called “Freedom Day” by four weeks to July 19.

Scotland’s next full review of the level of restrictions is due to take place next week, but Sturgeon said it was “unlikely” that any area would see restrictions eased on June 28 – the date it had been hoped all of Scotland would move into Level 0 restrictions.

This level, the lowest in Scotland’s five-tier system, is only currently in place in the island authorities of Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and islands in Argyll and Bute, with all mainland areas having either level 1 or level 2 restrictions applied.

As she pledged that all over-18s in Scotland should be given a date for their first vaccination by the end of next week, the First Minister said she hoped the country would be able to “move to much greater normality with far fewer restrictions, as we go further into summer”.

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More than six million coronavirus jags have now been administered in Scotland.

But in a statement to MSPs at Holyrood, Sturgeon stressed more time was needed to get more people vaccinated before mainland Scotland could move to level 0.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “We had all hoped for a summer of freedom. But instead this stubborn virus is determined to keep us all scunnered instead”.

But with 974 new Covid cases and two further deaths from the virus confirmed in the 24 hours previous, Sturgeon stressed that “fundamentally, we do need time to get more people vaccinated with both doses”.

She stressed that “vaccination is changing the game in our fight against this virus”, telling MSPs that the rising number of cases was “not leading to a commensurate rise in the number of people who fall seriously ill and require hospital treatment”.

The First Minister said: “Given the current situation – and the need to get more people fully vaccinated before we ease up further – it is reasonable to indicate now that I think it unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level from June 28.

“Instead, it is likely that we will opt to maintain restrictions for a further three weeks from June 28 and use that time to vaccinate, with both doses, as many more people as possible.

“Doing that will give us the best chance, later in July, of getting back on track and restoring the much greater normality that we all crave,” she added.

She said the decision would be confirmed at Holyrood next week, following a planned review of the current levels on June 22.

At the same time, the Scottish Government will publish a review of physical distancing requirements, along with a paper which the First Minister said would set out “what we hope life will look like beyond level 0 – as we get to the point where we can lift all, or virtually all, of the remaining restrictions”.

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As of yesterday, 3,531,461 people had received the first dose of a Covid vaccination and 2,470,181 had received their second dose, but a “technical issue” at Public Health Scotland may under-report these figures.

Speaking about the continued rollout of the vaccination programme, the FM said that while the target had been set for every adult to have been offered their first dose by the end of July, “in actual fact, by the end of next week everybody in the adult population will have been offered their appointment for their first dose”. She added: “Appointments will be scheduled for the entirety of the adult population that haven’t already had their first dose by the end of next week.”

Second doses are now being scheduled to take place within eight weeks – down from 12 weeks, although Sturgeon stressed that was subject to having supplies of vaccines.

As well as vaccinating adults, the Scottish Government is also making preparations for the possible vaccination of 12-17 year olds, and for people to receive “booster vaccinations” in the autumn, should the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommend them.