Nicola Sturgeon said it was intended to be a “helpful” guide to dealing with awkward social situations brought about by the pandemic.
But Scotland’s First Minister has faced accusations that she is treating Scots like infants - while wasting taxpayers’ money - after SNP ministers published a coronavirus "etiquette guide" that was condemned as "the definition of patronising".
The eight-page document, published on Monday, includes advice on how to politely turn down an invitation for birthday drinks, what to do if a colleague takes off their mask while talking, or if a fellow shopper stands too close in a supermarket.
Scots have been urged to frame remarks urging others to follow rules as “an offer rather than a request”, a tactic the guide states “will help to reduce tension or offence while still changing the outcome of an encounter”.
For example, if a stranger in a supermarket breaks two metre distancing, it suggests saying “I’ll step back and give you some space – it’s tricky in busy spaces to keep to 2 metres isn’t it?”
Meanwhile, if a friend attempts a hug, the ‘pandemic politeness’ guidelines suggest saying: “I so want to hug you! But I guess we have to wait until it’s safe. I don’t want to risk harming you or anyone else you are in contact with. I’m giving you a virtual hug”.
This is getting beyond embarrassing now. The Scottish government is treating the population like infants, never mind children. https://t.co/eJmie8W2C1
— Cllr G McGinnigle (@Graeme__mcg) December 7, 2020
The Scottish Government said the document was produced in response to research that found 80 per cent of people had “felt awkward when trying to follow the rules”.
However, the guidance was mocked relentlessly on social media, with Scots saying they were more than capable of deciding how to behave in everyday encounters without government diktats.
The guide advises offering a spare mask to someone not wearing one and turning down an offer of birthday drinks by saying “I wouldn’t want to risk infecting you… let’s have a birthday zoom and plan a bigger celebration when it’s safe to get together.”
If a collegues takes off their mask and attempts to strike up a conversation, it suggests saying: “Shall we catch-up outside where there is space to keep a wee distance?”
Brian Whittle, public health spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said the guide was “the definition of patronising” and belittled the “herculean efforts” the public had made to follow the rules.
He added: “It is another page out of the SNP’s nanny state playbook and treats sensible men and women across the country like toddlers rather than adults.
“It is time for the SNP to actually concentrate on what matters for once and ensure a clear and accountable roll out of the new vaccine."
The guide also addresses what to do if someone refuses to comply with a polite suggestion. Readers are told they should “walk away” and then report the rule breaker “if necessary”.
Asked about the guide at her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she did not know how much in public money had been spent producing it.
Responding to the suggestion that she was treating Scots like children, she said people would not be "forced" to abide by the new guide's instructions.
She said: “We’re trying to be as helpful as possible. People ask for guidance on all sorts of things. People are not forced to follow it. This is a difficult situation, we’re trying to help people through it as much as possible.
“People are grown ups, I’ve tried to treat people like grown ups and people are perfectly able, if they feel it is better to make their own decisions about how to handle some of these difficult situations we all find ourselves in because of this pandemic.”