The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the use of face coverings to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The best scientific and medical evidence available is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering provides some additional protection, especially in crowded and less well ventilated spaces.
That is why the Scottish Government has made face coverings mandatory on public transport, shops, most indoor public places and indoor communal areas within workplaces. More information on the benefits of face coverings, how to make, wear and clean one safely, as well as a full list of places where they need to be worn can be found on the Scottish Government website .
Most people can wear a face covering and must do so in the mandated spaces in order to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in Scotland and protect ourselves, each other and the NHS.
Face Covering Exemptions
The Scottish Government mandate the wearing of face coverings on transport, most indoor public places and communal areas in workplaces. Face coverings play a role in preventing the transmission of COVID-19, however, there are reasons you may require a face covering exemption card and a full list can be read on the Scottish Government website.
People who are exempt should not be made to wear a face covering or denied access to places where face coverings are required. We ask for people to be aware of the exemptions and to treat each other with kindness, especially when asking why someone is not wearing a face covering.
Below is a list of some reasons a person might be exempt:
Disability and health conditions
- when a person has a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability (within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010) (which might include hidden disabilities, for example, autism, dementia or a learning disability) which prevents them wearing a face covering. This may include children with breathing difficulties and disabled children who would struggle to wear a face covering
- you have a health condition where a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety or because you cannot apply a face covering and wear it in the proper manner safely and consistently
- a person who is providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person and where wearing a face covering would make this more difficult. This also applies if someone needs emergency assistance and they don’t have a face covering with them or there is not time to put one on
- you can temporarily remove a face covering if you need to take medication, eat or drink
- most people with a lung condition will be fine wearing a face covering
- however, a few people with a lung condition will find that face coverings increase their sensation of breathlessness to the extent they can’t tolerate wearing one
- for more information on face covering advice for those suffering with lung and respiratory conditions, visit the British Lung Foundation’s website.
- there are various reasons why an autistic person might find face coverings difficult, such as:
- The feeling it has on their skin
- A sudden change to their normal routine
- Not being able to see parts of their or other people’s faces
- if wearing a face covering causes you or someone you are supporting severe distress or anxiety, then you do not have to wear one
- if you are autistic and want tips on how to cope with wearing a face covering, read the National Autistic Society Scotland’s factsheet
- you might feel trapped or claustrophobic, panicked or anxious and be exempt from wearing a face covering for these reasons
- you might feel severely distressed or anxious if wearing a face covering triggers acute symptoms of a mental health condition, like:
- panic attacks, flashbacks or other severe anxiety symptoms
- paranoia or hearing voices
- dissociating, or switching alters (something that happens to people with dissociative identity disorder)
- thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- if you are exempt, you still might feel very anxious about being judged, shamed or stigmatised in public. Or about the possibility of being asked to pay a fine. This may feel especially hard to cope with if the reason you can’t wear a face covering is also related to your mental health
- for more information on how to manage stress and anxiety related to wearing a face covering, follow this link to an article from the mental health charity Mind .
- when a worker or volunteer is in an indoor part of their workplace and they are separated from others, either by a partition or maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres
- undertaking tasks in the course of their employment, where the wearing of a face covering would cause a material risk of harm
- babies, toddlers and all other children under 12
What doesn’t count
- not wanting to wear one
- mild discomfort when wearing one
- having a health condition or disability which does not prevent you from wearing a face coverings safely, such as well-managed asthma
- if you are deaf and lip read
- if they steam up your glasses
Download a card
There is no requirement to obtain written evidence in the form of a letter from a doctor or the government that you are exempt. If you cannot wear a face covering you only need to say that you are exempt from wearing a face covering because of one of the reasons listed above or in the Scottish Government guidance.
Warning: It is an offence not to comply with the regulations requiring face coverings to be worn. If you don’t wear a face covering when it is the law to do so and you are not exempt from wearing one, you could be liable to a fine or the police could issue you with a penalty notice.
If you do not have access to a smartphone or a printer, please fill in a physical card request form .
If you are unable to complete the online form you can also request a face covering exemption card by telephone on 0800 121 6240 (Open 10am to 3pm, Mondays and Thursdays).
Please note that it could take up to 14 days for physical cards to arrive. You can still download a card by following the digital download links on this website.
Disability Hate Crime
If you have received abuse for not wearing a face covering, you can visit the Disability Safety Hub for information on how to recognise and report disability hate crime.