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Coronavirus: Thousands of Scotland’s students remain in lockdown as Labour calls for human rights inquiry

© Andrew Milligan / PAA student sign at the Murano Student Village in Glasgow
A student sign at the Murano Student Village in Glasgow

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to issue new guidelines to locked-down students today as Scotland’s human rights commission is urged to investigate the situation in halls of residence.

Hundreds of students have been forced to self-isolate in halls following a spike in Covid cases after they returned to campus.

Students have been told they ­cannot return to their family homes and have been banned from pubs and parties after a series of outbreaks in halls of residence at several Scottish universities. It is estimated 3,000 students in Scotland and England are in quarantine, including 1,700 at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Now Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has written to the Scottish Human Rights Commission asking it investigate whether students’ human rights are being breached.

He said students were subject to rules different to that of the wider public. “This seems to ­discriminate against students without any wider analysis of whether the new regulations exclusive to students is appropriate, proportionate or legal,” he said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to make an announcement today on easing the rules for students, but national clinical director Jason Leitch has indicated the number of students allowed to return to family homes will be restricted. He said: “If people are genuinely distressed, if they need care, if there are exceptional circumstances, then we’re not going to lock the doors or have police on the doors of halls of residence. What we’re trying to do here is contain the virus, not spread it back in Alloa or Stranraer or wherever the students come from.”

The guidelines will also outline options to students who decide to give up their accommodation.

Glasgow University said yesterday it would refund one month of rent to those in halls of residence and offer a £50 food payment.

NUS Scotland president Matt Crilly said: “For those who’ve decided halls are not for them, they deserve the option of returning home, with a full rent refund.”

Human rights lawyer and former Glasgow University rector Aamer Anwar said: “Students have been asking what exactly have senior management been doing for the past six months. They were supposed to be making contingency plans for Covid-19. Instead, the focus has been to get students back at any cost.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie urged the Scottish Government to introduce routine asymptomatic testing, let students who test negative go home, give a rent rebate and mental health and other health support.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called for any student who returns home to be refunded the cost of their accommodation.

It was reported yesterday that ­dozens of students had decided to return home despite the lockdown.

Meanwhile, police were called to break up parties at Edinburgh University’s Pollock Halls of Residence on Friday. No arrests were made and no fines issued.

The Scottish Government said: “Additional advice and guidance from Universities Scotland for this weekend only is in response to evidence of the spread of the virus within the student community.”