Scotland’s hospitality and tourism leaders have criticised the Covid restrictions which currently prevent the sectors’ reopening.
The criticism follows the easing of England’s lockdown rules with pub gardens and restaurants among the places able to reopen.
Waiting two weeks before reopening will come at a cost to Scotland’s economy of £20 million, they warned.
Earlier this week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave an update on changes to COVID-19 restrictions, saying that while the data will continue to be monitored, there is now extreme confidence that parts of the country currently in level 4 will move to level 3 on 26 April. Island communities currently in level 3 will likely remain at that level for three further weeks.
Updated Strategic Framework Protection Level tables have been published showing the route map for future easings. These include new limits on attendance at public events tailored to individual settings based on available space for physical distancing from Level 2 and below. Self-assessment guidance will be published to enable businesses to calculate the specific limits for their premises.
The First Minister also confirmed the Stay Local requirement will be lifted from Friday 16 April, which will allow travel anywhere within Scotland for the purposes of outdoor socialising, recreation, or informal exercise. In addition, from the same date, rules for meeting people outdoors will change to allow a maximum of six adults, from up to six households.
In response to the announcement the SLTA reiterated its disappointment that Scotland’s bars, restaurants and cafés will still not be able to serve alcohol indoors until the licensed hospitality industry begins to reopens to some extent later next month.
SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said that while his organisation welcomed yesterday’s announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to lift restrictions on travelling around Scotland and allow people to meet up in larger groups outdoors from Friday, it will do nothing to help the vast majority of licensed trade businesses.
“We appreciate the baby steps and the continuing need for caution but for most opening on April 26 will simply be unviable and that’s without taking into account the unpredictable Scottish weather. Even many businesses with suitable facilities to serve people customers outdoors have decided to wait until May 17 when the industry will be able to open until 10.30pm indoors with alcohol permitted and, for outdoors, until 10pm.
“We are now urging the Scottish Government to consider loosening these restrictions to give our industry a fighting chance. England has reopened its hospitality industry so let’s fall into line with our colleagues south of the border.”
According to a recent industry report, only 22.9 per cent of licensed premises in Scotland have designated outdoors areas and many of these are small areas with only a few tables.
Mr Wilkinson added:-
“By our reckoning it will not be viable for about two-thirds of the licensed trade to reopen on April 26.”
He said that while eligible businesses may be entitled to one-off cash “restart grants” from local councils, Covid restrictions will continue into June and beyond, leading businesses further into debt. The typical small hospitality business has taken on between £60,000 and £90,000 in bank debt and deferred bills as of February this year just to survive Covid – and the debt is rising with every week of low or no income.”