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Joint agreement on festive period

Thu 3 Dec 20

The Scottish Government has agreed a cautious and limited relaxation of the rules on household meetings to support people over the Christmas period.

A maximum of three households are to be able to meet in a “bubble” during a short window of time across the festive period.

Households will be able to travel between local authorities and between the four nations during 23 and 27 December to form a bubble, and must only join one bubble.

The five-day period provides time for travel, and for those who may have to work over Christmas. Households are not required to use all five days and should keep visits to no more than one or two days if possible.

The approach states:

  • a “bubble” should be formed household to household only (i.e. different people in a household should not pick their own bubble)
  • between 23 and 27 December, people can meet in an exclusive “bubble” composed of three households
  • you should stay with your “bubble” where they are hosting you and you should follow the travel advice for the level you are in (e.g. people being hosted in a level 3 area cannot go on an outing to a level 2 area)
  • within your “bubble”, you can gather in a home, an outdoor place or a place of worship
  • in all other settings - eg. hospitality, entertainment venues – those who have formed a bubble must only socialise with members of their own household
  • The law allows a bubble to meet in self-catered accommodation (or second home) for a Christmas gathering, but only in the local authority area in which you or a member of your bubble lives. 
  • households deciding to form a bubble will be advised to limit social contact before and after the period of relaxation

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for festive period. The guidance stipulates that Christmas bubbles (no more than three households) should be kept to a maximum of eight people (children under 12 are exempt from the rules); those bubbles are not allowed to visit restaurants, bars or serviced visitor accommodation.

Hospitality businesses will have to trade under the levels restrictions in place in their area over the festive period.

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers:

Visiting Scotland from other parts of the UK during the Christmas period

As agreed by all four UK governments travel between Scotland, England, Wales and Norther Ireland is permitted to allow families and friends to gather to form a Christmas bubble between 23 to 27 December (22 to 28 December for Northern Ireland).  The location of a Christmas bubble in Scotland must be in the local authority area which a member of the bubble has their main residence.    

Can my bubble stay in self-catered accommodation?

We recognise that people will not always have a house big enough to accommodate a Christmas bubble.    The law therefore lets a bubble meet in self-catered accommodation (or second home) for a Christmas gathering, but only in the local authority area in which you or a member of your bubble lives.   As we need to prevent the risk of spreading the virus, a Christmas gathering is not allowed in an area outside the local authority area in which one of the participants lives.

Operators should check that at least one household participating is from within the local authority area. Use this postcode tool to check the local authority area for a postcode.

A maximum of eight people from up to three households which have formed a bubble can stay in self-catering accommodation over the period 23 to 27 December.  Children under the age of 12 from these households do not count towards the total number of people in the bubble. If you are staying with another household you should not have more than one household (or extended household) staying in each bedroom.

Can my bubble stay in tourist accommodation, such as hotels or B&Bs?

The bubble should not meet or stay in hotel or B&B accommodation during the Christmas period.  However, individual members or an individual household which is part of a bubble may use hotel or B & B accommodation nearby.   

If I have formed a bubble can we go to hospitality?

Those who have formed a bubble should only socialise in a hospitality, leisure or entertainment venue in your own household (or extended household) for the duration of the festive period.

Socialising and opening hours for pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes are as per the local authority protection levels that the venue is situated in.

Can I go to the shops with my bubble?


Retail premises could be busier than normal in the days leading up to Christmas.  You should try to avoid times when shops will be busy.  Where possible you should shop on your own, or only with children or those who need support, shop local, and use Click and Collect or Delivery services.


Find out more from Scottish Government guidance for the festive period.

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