06 Jan 2021

What are the rules for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

England went into a new national lockdown from midnight on Monday (January 4, 2021), which meant the closure of all non-essential retail.

However, what is the situation in the devolved nations? Here we look at the rules for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.



From Tuesday, January 5, mainland Scotland will move from Level 4 to a temporary lockdown, with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes. Some islands will remain at Level 3.

As part of the lockdown announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, only essential retail will be able to remain open providing they follow and have implemented Scottish Government guidance to ensure the safety of customers and staff.

A list of essential retail can be found in the question and answer section of the retail sector guidance under the sub heading ‘the shopping experience’.  This list was recently updated to reflect changes which came into force on December 26, 2020, replacing the previously permitted category of “homeware, building supplies and hardware stores” with “building merchants and suppliers of products and tools used in building work and repairs”.  Garden Centres and plant nurseries have also been removed from the list of essential retail. Please check retailers’ websites before travelling to see whether this change affects them.

Read the full guidance here


All of Wales is at Alert Level 4. The Welsh Government says that the default position with regard to shops (“any business selling goods or services for sale or hire in retail premises”) in Alert Level 4 is that they should all be closed, unless they are a category of shop that provides goods or services that are explicitly allowed.

Generally speaking businesses operating out of shops should assume they will be required to close those shops and cease their activities unless they are exempt due to the goods or services they provide being deemed to be “essential”.

Full guidance on the businesses which must close here

Northern Ireland


Following an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, additional restrictions were introduced for people in Northern Ireland on December 26, 2020. These new restrictions are in place to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and to help manage the pressures on our health and social care system. They will run for six weeks before a formal review.

Measures include the closure of all retail businesses except for essential retail. Click/phone and collect facilities will not be permitted for non-essential retail businesses, however delivery is allowed.

Retail premises can only remain open if the business is wholly or mainly an essential retail business. Where an essential retail business has another, separate business embedded within it that is required to close, the embedded business must close.

An essential retail business may also continue to sell goods typically sold by non-essential retail businesses. For example, a supermarket that sells food is not required to close off or cordon off aisles selling accessories.

Read the full guidance here

Additional Guidance and Resources

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