Christmas gatherings will be set at eight people over 12 years old in Scotland - and households should stay two metres apart indoors, according to new official guidance.

The Scottish Government published the details for special relaxed rules over the festive break between December 23 and 27.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed the basic UK-wide plan but urged caution and wants to keep gatherings to a minimum.

The total number of people is eight, and social distancing is encouraged between different groups - making Christmas dinner round the table a challenge. Scots are also warned to avoid sharing cutlery and dishes.

When does the guidance change and what does it allow?

The relaxed rules cover December 23 to 27. It includes a lift on travel restrictions meaning people can travel anywhere in the UK regardless of the alert level for each area.

It does not aim to encourage mixing - it aims to help people see loved ones at risk of isolation or loneliness.

People in the newly formed group are not allowed to shop together.

How many people can meet, and where can they gather?

There should be no more than eight people, excluding children under 12 years old, in a bubble. One of the households can be classed as "extended", which includes a vulnerable person for care reasons. Children under the age of 12 do not count towards the total.

Bubbles can meet in a private home, including over night. They can also meet outdoors and in places of worship.

It’s in this context we have to welcome the news that discussions between the UK Government and the devolved administrations over Christmas have reached an agreement.
Even Santa has to maintain social distancing

Do we need to keep up social distancing?

The Scottish Government says people should remain two metres from people outside a household as much as possible. In a house, this could prove difficult around a dining table or in front of the Christmas tree.

What safety precautions should I take?

Avoid sharing cutlery or crockery "if possible".

Ventilation is important so the government recommends windows are open. Keep washing hands and surfaces.

Anyone previously told to shield from the virus should "take time to think" about the risks.

If anyone develops symptoms, all members of the bubble must isolate in their own home or the home they’re staying in for 14 days from the start of the symptoms or most recent contact.

People in 'bubbles' can gather indoors to enjoy the festive period

What has Nicola Sturgeon said?

Setting out the proposals the day before the guidance, Sturgeon said staying at home should be the "default" position.

The easing of restrictions is a "recognition of a reality that exists over the Christmas period, whether I like it or not", she admitted.

Sturgeon added: "If you can get through this Christmas staying in your own home, within your own household, please do so. I want to stress today that just because we’re allowing people to form a bubble does not mean that you have to do it.

"If you do choose to do it at all, you don’t have to do it to the maximum permitted.

"We are relying on people to make informed choices about whether or not to come together at all over the Christmas period."

The official guidance left no room for doubt on the risks.

"The safest way to spend Christmas and the festive period is to stay within your own household, in your own home and your own local area," the government claimed.