NICOLA Sturgeon has said she expects there to be a “slight and careful” relaxation of Covid restrictions at Christmas - but not at New Year.

The First Minister also warned that any visits would carry a risk of infection and said people should not feel under pressure to see loved ones just because it was possible. 

She revealed she had dropped plans for her usual festive gathering or around 10 people at home and had yet to decide whether to meet her own parents at Christmas.

She said she would decide on what was best for them given the continued health risks.

The Scottish Cabinet is expected to sign off four-nation plans for a limited change to the rules on indoor gatherings at Christmas tomorrow.

Although there is speculation up to four households may be allowed to meet up, Ms Sturgeon said the discussion had not been around a number as high as that.

The Cabinet Office said on Sunday that leaders across the UK had endorsed an objective of “some limited additional household bubbling” over the Christmas period for a few days, although the Scottish Government said the issues were yet to be finalised.

Prof Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said that meeting people indoors would not come without risks.

She told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “Many of us would wish to see our older relatives at Christmas, and we know that mortality from Covid-19 is significantly higher for older people – I think around 86% of deaths in hospital occurred in people over the age of 65 – so this is concerning.

“At the moment we still have levels of infection in the community across the UK that are higher than we would wish.

“If we come together with people from different households at the time of year when the windows are closed, the people you care about, physical distancing is difficult, it is an opportunity for the virus to spread, so this is really really tough.”

 Prof Bauld said that, in planning whether people can meet over the festive period, governments may also be concerned about mental health, with levels of depression and anxiety significantly higher than expected for the time of year due to the pandemic.

“This discussion is about trying to recognise that there are not only harms from the virus, there are other harms, people want to see their loved ones,” she said.

She added that, even if restrictions are eased, people should make their own decisions about what they feel comfortable doing.

“It is up to us to decide, even if government says ‘OK, you can get together indoors with other people’, let’s all make our own risk assessment about the people we care about and ourselves and say how are we going to apply that to our own personal circumstances.

“So I think, as with everything throughout this pandemic, it has got to be a partnership between guidance and support that government gives and what people decide to do for themselves and for their families.”

Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, told Good Morning Scotland she was against restrictions being eased "simply because it's Christmas".

She added: "It certainly sounds as if that it's a trade-off - that you behave now, keep transmission low, then we might be able to do something over Christmas that resembles something familiar to us.

"The best Christmas present we can give to people is to keep them safe - it really is the bottom line.

"The best way to keep safe is to try and avoid the risk as much as possible and if you must meet family, which most of us are longing to do, try to do it outdoors if you possibly can - and fingers crossed we get a dry and less windy and wet Christmas time."

Even John Keenan, the bishop of Paisley, who last month called for a 24-hour Christmas "truce" involving a lifting of restrictions, admitted he was “conflicted”.

Although he welcomed politicians considering a way to accommodate Christmas during the pandemic, he told the BBC:

He said: "The thought of my mum - who's a widow - being on her own all through Christmas day is an awful thought for me.

"On the other hand the thought that I might go there and pass on a virus to her is equally awful so I think we're all conflicted about it. "