Is guising allowed this year in Scotland? Rules for trick or treating on Halloween 2020 explained

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that guising brings an “avoidable risk of spreading the virus”

This is what you need to know about the rules around guising in Scotland this year (Photo: Andy Buchanan/Getty Images/Shutterstock)
This is what you need to know about the rules around guising in Scotland this year (Photo: Andy Buchanan/Getty Images/Shutterstock)

As Scotland continues to get to grips with the virus, the rules across the country have left families unsure about whether going out guising is permitted under current regulations this Halloween.

Guising - or trick or treating - in Scotland is a traditional Halloween custom, however, this year, the Covid-19 pandemic is set to disrupt the annual celebration.

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Is guising allowed this Halloween?

In a statement issued on 24 October, the Scottish government said that “families and children are being urged to avoid guising this Halloween to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus”.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that the move is necessary in order to ensure that people stay within the current restrictions in Scotland around indoor and outdoor gatherings.

Swinney said: “Under the current restrictions, it is not possible to meet up indoors or in large groups outdoors, so the safest thing to do this year is to stay at home.

“I know guising is a big part of Halloween and children will be sad to miss out, but as door-to-door guising brings an additional and avoidable risk of spreading the virus, our clear advice for families is to avoid it.”

Swinney added that adapting to the situation and trying out alternative celebrations that allow you to stick to the rules in place “can go a huge way to ensuring everyone’s safety”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Swinney also said: “Quite conceivably, without anyone knowing that they were doing any harm to anyone else, somebody could give a child an assembled bag of sweeties - my son went out guising last year and from our very kind neighbours he got little bags of sweeties - those bags could be purveyors of coronavirus.”

What has Nicola Sturgeon said?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously been asked about whether kids would be permitted to go guising on Halloween at her daily press conference on 22 October.

She said: “I can’t tell you how much I hate having to stand here and talk about restricting the ability of kids to go out guising.

“But we are in a global pandemic, and hopefully we will never have to face this again in another year, this is hopefully a once in a century thing that we’ll all have to live through.”

She said that official guidance regarding Halloween and guising would be published, which it now has, but at the time said: “It is not safe to do these things as normal and it would not be fair of me or right of me to say otherwise.

“So, to parents, to children - think of ways in which you can celebrate, if that’s what we do at Halloween, in a way that is safe and doesn’t have children or others coming into unnecessary contact.”

What could happen if you break the rules?

There are a number of penalties and fines that you could be issued if you are found to be breaking the rules regarding Covid-19 regulations.

If you gather in public in a group that includes more than six people, or people from more than two households, attend a party that breaches the restrictions in the regulations, or do not comply with the rules on face coverings on public transport or in indoor public spaces, the police can:

- Instruct you to leave an area, or disperse

- Instruct you to take steps to stop your children breaking the rules if they have already done so

- Take you home, or arrest you, if you do not follow their instructions or where they deem it necessary

The Scottish government website states: “If you attend a social gathering in a private home where 16 or more people are present from more than one household, and this is not for specific permitted purposes such as work, the police have the power to enter that property to enforce the restrictions in these regulations.

“This power can only be used if the police have first requested that the unlawful action stop and this request has not been complied with.”

It’s also explained that if you are believed to have broken the rules, and are 18 or over (or you refuse to follow police instructions), an officer can issue you with a fixed penalty notice for £60, which is reduced to £30 if paid within 28 days.

If a person has already received a fixed penalty notice, the amount will increase to £120 and double on each further repeat offence up to a maximum of £960.

If you refuse to pay a fixed penalty, or the police considers it necessary, you may also be taken to court, and face the statutory maximum level of fines, which is £10,000.

What alternative ways are there to celebrate Halloween?

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Read more: 8 ideas for Halloween 2020: spooky activities to keep the kids entert...

Just because guising is not permitted under the current circumstances doesn’t mean that should stop you and your family from having Halloween fun.

The Scottish government’s website, Parent Club, offers up a number of suggestions on how to have a Covid-19 safe Halloween.

The tips include:

- Pumpkin carving

- Making pumpkin pie

- Carving a traditional turnip

- Dressing up in costumes at home

- Create and dance along to a monster-themed playlist (think The Monster Mash and Black Magic)

- Play ghoulish games, like embarking on a Halloween sweetie treasure hunt, or bobbing for apples

- Tell spooky stories - sit in the dark and tell creepy tales via torchlight