Scotland’s Return To Tier System Is Closure In All But Name

Sector bosses have criticized the Scottish government for a “lack of clarity” over its reopening plans for hospitality. Pubs and restaurants are set to reopen in Scotland from the end of April alongside non-essential retail, gyms and hairdressers under the lockdown exit roadmap outlined by first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon said a phased return for these sectors would start in the last week of April but did not provide more detail, saying it would be confirmed in mid-March.

Emma McClarkin, CEO of Scottish Beer & Pub Association said:  “The announcement today that hospitality can re-open from 26th April under the tiered system raises more questions than it answers. Pub businesses across Scotland now have a lengthy and uncertain wait until mid March when details of the tier system will be announced. While we welcome the news that the government intends to provide additional support for business for four weeks after opening and a tapered support for businesses facing tiered restrictions, it is essential they strip out the complexity of the tiers introduced last year and make them easier to interpret and work with.”

“For much of 2020 pubs in Scotland had to contend with onerous and unjustified restrictions which made it unviable to trade, resulting in many closing their doors for good. We hope that in reviewing the tier system the First Minister and her government will learn the lessons of last year and remove the arbitrary, and frankly, bizarre restrictions previously imposed such as curfew, no music and banning of the sale of alcohol. This is continued closure for pubs in all but name.”

Meanwhile the announcement comes on same day that Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill, which would introduce a levy on some pubs and destroy investment in the sector, is being debated in Parliamentary committee. This is despite concerns from over 150 pub tenants, representing 20% of affected pubs, who wrote jointly to the First Minister at the weekend to reconsider the damaging bill.

UKHospitality Scotland executive director Willie Macleod said: “We need much more detail to really get to grips with the challenge of reopening. We will need details of the type of restrictions businesses will be under and the timeframe for easing them. It appears hospitality will be shunted back into unrealistic level three restrictions, which will be immensely damaging for the sector. It is crucial businesses remain supported in the run-up to reopening and beyond. The Scottish government has already extended the business rates holiday, and this is welcome; but we need much more than this and the grants available under the Temporary Closure and Business Restrictions schemes are, quite simply, inadequate for the job. The UK government must use next month’s Budget to extend the VAT cut, extend furlough and deliver a sector-specific package of support with consequential funding to the Scottish government to ensure businesses survive the coming months.”