Douglas Ross has called for covid restrictions in Scotland to be lifted three weeks quicker to enable a “faster road to recovery”.
The Scottish Conservative leader said many restrictions due to be scrapped on 17 May should instead be lifted on 26 April.
Ross said the success of the vaccine scheme and encouraging public health data meant the roadmap to opening up hospitality should be accelerated.
Under Ross’ proposal pubs and restaurants could start serving food and alcohol inside instead of only outside on April 26 as is planned under the current rules.
Outdoor contact sport and small indoor events would also be allowed and students could return to a blended model of learning.
Ross spoke as Nicola Sturgeon said changes to the rules should be taken ‘cautiously and clearly” and emphasised there would be no change to the roadmap.
Ross said his plan would boost the economy and give people fresh hope.
He said: “People are waiting to get on with their lives. They should not wait any longer than public health data shows is necessary.
“The SNP Government should not keep Scotland under restrictions any longer than we need to because every day that the government delays, the impact grows on mental health, physical health and family finances.”
Ross told journalists he had looked at the same data that the First Minister studied to make decisions on lifting restrictions.
He said: “I’ve looked at the same data, and I’ve reached that conclusion that I think we can safely and cautiously reopened slightly quicker than is currently anticipated in the current road map.”
Ross added: “We are facing a looming jobs crisis that will be far worse if the government holds back on a return to normality. This is the time to back businesses and work with them to start rebuilding Scotland now.
“Let’s safely speed up our return to normality and get our country on a faster road to recovery.”
However, Ross said he had “significant reservations” about proposals for “vaccine passports” to allow people to enter shops and pubs.
The certificates would be based on a person’s vaccine record or having tested negative for covid and have raised concerns about discrimination.
As an MP Ross might be given the opportunity to vote in the Commons on Boris Johnson’s vaccine passport plans which many backbench Tory MPs have expressed opposition to.
He said: “In terms of domestic vaccine passports, I think there are still many questions that remain unanswered.”
“It is right that there are trials that take place. However, there will be those in society, particularly younger people who haven’t had the opportunity to get a vaccine yet, and are well known the list of the priorities for the vaccines and there will be a small minority of people for legitimate reasons who don’t take up the vaccine.
“I worry that we get into a two tier system that does not allow it fairness for everyone to come through this.”
At the Scottish Government covid press conference Nicola Sturgeon also expressed reservations on the idea of vaccine passports in domestic situations.
She said: “We just don’t know for sure yet what role they will play. I’m not one of these people that says never ever, because I think we need to be open minded to anything that helps us get back to normality.
“But nor am I one of the people that says let’s just forget some of the really complex issues. Let’s trial where that is appropriate, learn lessons as we go and get to the right position through a mature, grown-up debate.”