Pictures showed empty pubs and quiet streets in Glasgow and Edinburgh today, while defiant Scots continued to pour into Newcastle to celebrate Hogmanay away from Nicola Sturgeon’s tough Covid restrictions.
Empty chairs were piled up outside bars and restaurants in Glasgow’s usually bustling Merchant City district this afternoon, while sparse crowds of shoppers were seen along the iconic Royal Mile.
Meanwhile, in Newcastle, pubs were beginning to fill up with eager revellers including groups of Scottish ‘Covid refugees’ who declared themselves ‘fed up’ with the tough rules in Scotland.
Josh Urquart, Dean Heggie, Campbell McLean and Jamie had kicked off the celebrations by early afternoon in a pub where they sat next to a Saltire.
Dylan Neill and Alex Cairns, both 18, had travelled from Fife with a group of pals who were checking in at their hotel in the city centre at around 1pm.
College student Dylan said: ‘We can’t go out properly back home so we’ve come to Newcastle for a night out. It’s something different.
‘It’s not ideal having these restrictions in place at New Year. If we’d stayed in Scotland we might have ended up sitting at somebody’s house. Now we’ve come here we’ll be able to go out properly.’
Meanwhile, Alex, who also goes to college, was frustrated by the local restrictions preventing him and his friends from hitting the town at home.
He said: ‘We’re fed up now with the rules at our local. Everyone in Newcastle would be fed up with it too if they were in place here.
‘We plan on going to the nightclub Tup Tup later but not sure where before that. Some of us have been here before but some never have. We’re looking forward to going out.’
A third friend, who didn’t want to be named, said: ‘We’re fed up of Nicola Sturgeon putting in these restrictions. That’s why we’re happy to be in Newcastle where we can go out and have fun.’
Thousands of Scots took the train south to Newcastle to avoid Nicola Sturgeon’s New Year Eve shutdown after the Scottish First Minister cancelled Hogmanay celebrations due to the Omicron variant
Lori, Elsie and Nathan jumped on a train from Swansea to Bristol Temple Meads station to avoid a similar lockdown in Wales
Packed cross-border trains carried partying passengers across Wales into England, pictured Bristol
Alex Badea, Maria Mutuliga, Livia Miheala and Alex Rudolff from Dorset travelled to Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens to welcome in the New Year
Newcastle’s train station has been busy all day with people arriving in the city from across Scotland’s east coast
Chairs were piled up outside bars and restaurants in the usually bustling Merchant City district in Glasgow this afternoon on a cloudy day in Scotland’s second city
A deserted Merchant Square in Candleriggs, Glasgow, this afternoon. The spot features a cluster of bars and restaurants
Ashton Lane – a cobbled road in the West End of Glasgow – was quiet this afternoon in the run up to Hogmanay
Sparse crowds of shoppers were seen along the iconic Royal Mile in Edinburgh this afternoon
The Goose pub in Newcastle city centre this afternoon, where most of the tables were full
Katie Neilson, 18, Lucy Pryde, 18, and Leah Grant, 19, had come down to Newcastle from Edinburgh for the celebrations
Aimee Stewart, 22, had arrived in the city from Edinburgh with two of her pals. The admin worker said: ‘We can’t have a good night out unless we come to England.
‘We would have stayed in our houses otherwise. ‘We would have literally been in our homes, crying.
‘It’s so boring in Scotland at the moment.
‘With the restrictions, you can’t dance. You can’t have a good time.
‘You can’t even go to a party.
‘Tonight in Newcastle we’re going to go to the clubs.
‘We are not worrying about the virus. ‘If you’re going to catch it you will catch it.
‘We’ve been double vaxxed for a reason.
‘It’s ridiculous how you can just go down the road and everywhere is open as usual.’ On the same train another group of girls arrived in the city on the run from Edinburgh’s strict covid rules.
Edinburgh lads Josh Urquart, Dean Heggie, Campbell McLean and Jamie King kick off Hogmanay celebrations early in one of Newcastle’s pubs today
One Scottish reveller held his can of Strongbow Dark Fruit in the air to celebrate arriving in Newcastle
Dylan Neill (far left) and Alex Cairns (second from left), both 18, had travelled from Fife with a group of pals who were checking in at their hotel in the city centre at around 1pm
Rebecca Thornburn, a 19-year-old student, and pals were planning on heading to late night bar Livellos.
She said: ‘We’re really looking forward to going out tonight.
‘It would have been terrible in Edinburgh.
‘We wouldn’t have been able to do anything.
‘We are not worried about the virus.
‘We want to have fun in Newcastle on New Year’s Eve.’
Her friend Elle McKinnon, a 19-year-old hairdresser, added: ‘My brother is here with 20 of his friends.
‘Most of the Scottish people we know are coming to England.
‘The rules are there to protect us but I do think life should get back to normal now.’
A group of eight lads had also travelled from the Scottish capital to party in Newcastle. Steven Harris, a 23-year-old student, said: ‘it would have been so boring in Scotland.
‘We’re here to have a good time. We don’t agree with the rules in Edinburgh.’
His friend Matt, a 19-year-old electrician, added: ‘It would have been rubbish in Edinburgh.
‘The restrictions up there are brutal.
‘We are here to have fun.’
Groups of Scottish revellers continued to arrive at Newcastle Central Station today in defiance of Nicola Sturgeon’s advice
As steady stream of revellers have been arriving at Newcastle Central Station this morning and afternoon
Also fresh from Scotland were Katie Neilson and her two pals who had arrived in Newcastle from Edinburgh.
What are the post-Christmas Covid rules in Scotland?
Coronavirus rules announced by Nicola Sturgeon before Christmas and which came into effect earlier this week include:
– Large-scale public live events have been made ‘effectively spectator-free’ for three weeks from Boxing Day. For indoor standing events the attendance limit is set at 100 people, for indoor seated events it is 200 and for outdoor events 500 seated or standing. The rules do not apply to private life events like weddings but they do apply to football matches.
– Restrictions on live crowds mean big Hogmanay celebrations on New Year’s Eve are banned.
– Pubs and restaurants which serve alcohol returned to table service-only from December 27, also for an initial three week period. Indoor hospitality and leisure venues are required to ensure there is one metre social distancing between different groups of people.
– People have been urged to limit social contacts ‘as much as you possibly can’ from December 27 until at least the end of the first week in January. Ms Sturgeon has said people should ‘stay at home as much as is feasible’ and ‘when you do go out, maintain physical distancing from people not in your own group’.
The trio had only recently booked up to come to Newcastle after realising they wouldn’t be able to party back home.
They were even prepared to make the journey by car if it got to that point, as some trains from the Scottish capital have been cancelled.
Katie, 18, who works part-time in retail, said: ‘We’ve come to Newcastle for the clubs. We did have tickets for a club in Edinburgh but they all got shut so we chose to come here instead.
‘We booked up on Wednesday. I’ve been to Newcastle twice before over the last few months and it’s great. We’re booked up to go Digital night club. It was eithier there or TupTup but we’ve booked there so we can’t wait.
‘It’s our favourite place. It has a better night life than Edinburgh in my opinion so I’m happy about it. The restrictions in Scotland haven’t been in for long but it’s a bit gutting.’
Katie’s pal Lucy Pryde, said she was fed up of living by the stringent rules.
The 18-year-old who works at a gym said: ‘I can’t deal with it anymore, it’s so bad. I think we just need to live our lives. People should stop testing so often too.
‘I don’t agree with it anymore. At first I could understand but the restrictions keep coming back. We’re pleased to be here though and celebrate new year.’
Leah Grant, 19, added: ‘We thought our train was going to get cancelled because we heard some of them have been already.
‘I was getting prepared to drive us here which I would have done if I had to. But thankfully we’re here now and we’re looking forward to a good night.’
Nicola Sturgeon has banned large Hogmanay celebrations and advised people to limit socialising as much as possible, and Deputy First Minister John Swinney today called on all Scots to stick to the Scottish Government’s guidance.
He said people are being urged to restrict socialising because Omicron is ‘spreading very, very widely within our society’ and it ‘poses a serious threat to us’.
Passengers board the 13.30hrs Edinburgh to Kings Cross train this afternoon. They journey takes just over five hours
A National Express coach leaving Scotland this afternoon headed to Newcastle, Leeds and Birmingham
A train from Edinburgh arrives at Kings Cross Station. The service would have stopped at other stations on the way
Nicola Sturgeon has banned large Hogmanay celebrations and advised people to limit socialising as much as possible
A train from Edinburgh is pictured arriving at King’s Cross Station in London this morning. There were several other stops on the way which passengers may have boarded at
The First Minister said it is ‘prudent’ and ‘essential’ to take action to reduce transmission of the disease in order to ‘avoid the sheer volume of cases overwhelming us’.
She has urged people to reduce their contacts with other households and to ‘limit the size of any indoor social gatherings that do take place so that they don’t include people from any more than three households’.
There are similar restrictions on socialising in place in Wales and experts have predicted as many as 100,000 Scottish and Welsh revellers could journey across the border to celebrate this evening.
There are no such curbs in England, with people simply being encouraged to take a Covid test before they head to a party.
Mr Swinney was asked this morning why the Scottish Government was not prepared to ‘trust’ people to get tested before celebrating.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We do trust people and we have encouraged them to do exactly that.
‘But we have also asked people to limit their social contact because we can see from all of the data that you have just recounted that Omicron is spreading very, very widely within our society.
‘It poses a serious threat to us, we can see hospitalisation levels are increasing… so at a time when I recognise all of the sentiments that were set out in the clip that you have just played, I recognise all of those traditions, I have been part of them, I value them, I appreciate them, I love them, it is part of who we are.
‘But unfortunately this time around we have to apply some constraints on the level of social interaction we have to protect others.’
Mr Swinney said earlier this week that he would ‘discourage’ Scots from heading to England to celebrate on New Year’s Eve.
Aidyn Stott was getting off the train in Newcastle yesterday after travelling from Fife with his partner. He plans on spending the 31st in Newcastle after becoming fed up of the stringent Scottish rules
Sarah Hall, 23, (middle) had travelled from Dunbar and is combining a NYE night out with her friend’s birthday
Taylor Houston, 18, (centre) had come down from Dundee with a small group of pals before meeting some more later in the day. He said: ‘I think it’s wrong that the restrictions are different in Scotland, but that’s Nicola Sturgeon for you’
He said that ‘people are free to take those decisions but I would discourage them from doing so’.
Groups of Scots were pictured arriving in English towns and cities yesterday.
Newcastle is a particular draw given its proximity to Scotland and famously lively party scene, and yesterday there was a steady flow of Scots arriving at Central Station.
Aidyn Stott was getting off the train after travelling from Fife with his partner. He plans on spending today in Newcastle after becoming fed up of the stringent Scottish rules.
The 21-year-old joiner told MailOnline: ‘It’s not good up in Scotland having to live with the restrictions. We’re here for the New Year and we plan on going out for it to celebrate. We’ll be going to the Tup Tup nightclub.
‘I don’t agree with the restrictions in Scotland. A few miles away south of the border you can go out as normal. It doesn’t make any sense.
‘It’s good to come to Newcastle because you’re used to going out back home all the time and it gets a bit boring.
‘You can come here and go to the football and do a lot more than you can in Scotland.’
One Scottish taxi driver had travelled from Edinburgh with his partner for a trip to Newcastle.
He didn’t want to be named but said: ‘It’s nice just to be able to get away from the Covid situation in Scotland. I’m going down to London as well soon to watch Chelsea play football to just get away from it.
‘Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t drink, she’s teetotal. She targets the working man. The people she targets are everything she hates.
‘On a normal New Year’s Eve I’d be working or I would be at my local pub where every year there are hundreds of people. That’s not going to happen now and it affects everyone. The restrictions are wrong because they’re not working in my opinion.’
Alex Torrence, 32, who works at a hotel in Glasgow, arrived at Euston railway station in London today and said he was going on to Brighton to visit friends.
He said he had spent ‘well over £100’ to make the trip, adding: ‘I booked the trip long before the restrictions came in, but I decided I was going to come anyway. The hotel I’m working at is closed. I booked the time off. Why not?
‘I am completely understanding of the restrictions that Nicola Sturgeon has put in place, but people also have to carry on and live their lives.
‘I spent Christmas Day by myself because my mum is vulnerable and she’s not got the booster yet. I’m not going to be alone on New Year’s Eve as well.’
Mike, who came from Scotland and arrived at King’s Cross, was with three male friends and said they were going to go out in central London over the next few nights. He said: ‘Aye, I don’t care [about the Covid restrictions]. I’m here to have a laugh.’