Pubs handed 'death sentence' by Scottish Government

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

'Total catastrophe': trade bodies representing Scottish pubs and bars have lambasted new measures which will see some sites close for more than two weeks
'Total catastrophe': trade bodies representing Scottish pubs and bars have lambasted new measures which will see some sites close for more than two weeks

Related tags: Coronavirus, Scotland, Legislation, Health and safety, ukhospitality, Glasgow, Scottish

The Scottish Government have made pubs and bars a “sacrificial lamb” according to one trade body ahead of a temporary closure of hospitality in parts of the country.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described a 16-day closure period for five areas including Glasgow as short, sharp action” that would be backed by £40m additional financial support.

For the rest of the country, pubs are only allowed to offer indoor service until 6pm and must not serve alcohol, though current regulations will continue apply for beer gardens.

Sturgeon said she wanted to avoid a situation where pubs were burdened by so many restrictions they felt they were “all but closed” and struggling without support.

Measures will begin Friday 9 October.

Last man standing

However, Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said the First Minister’s announcement would “only accelerate business failure and job losses.”

“Our research already tells us that many in the industry are on the precipice of business failure and these further restriction measures announced today and the much quieter winter season approaching leads us to only one conclusion: the sector is now heading into a scenario of ‘last man standing," Wilkinson said.

“It would appear again that Scotland’s licensed trade is the sacrificial lamb and paying the price for other sectors that do not operate under such restrictive measures as we have seen recently.”

He questioned whether promised support from the Scottish Government would be enough.

“In our opinion the hospitality sector in general needs substantially greater and far more reaching support than has just been announced and does not come anywhere near to saving our industry,” the director said.

What’s more, pubs had been “doing everything” to limit coronavirus transmission with low infection rates of staff, Wilkinson said.

Closure for many

There have been calls for the Government to outline a reopening route for pubs in the healthboard areas of Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley.

UKHospitality executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod called the announcement a “total catastrophe” and called for urgent details of what the £40m package would entail.

“Forced closures will spell the end for many, many venues which have no cash flow and will have exhausted their reserves," he added. "Severe restrictions to those businesses not forced to close will amount to a closure for many.

"It is likely to be the final straw for many that were only just hanging on. We are going to see businesses fold and many jobs lost.

“We also need a route map for those businesses in the five health board areas across the central belt forced to close. We must have a clear plan for their reopening.

"We cannot afford to be left in limbo. It will just mean businesses unable to plan, employees worried for their jobs, consumer confidence shattered and businesses all the more likely to fail. The Government has to move quickly to save businesses and keep jobs alive.”

Death sentence

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group called the measures a “death sentence” for embattled pubs, which were already subject to stricter restrictions than their English counterparts.

“This latest blow from the Scottish Government will create fear and anger across our industry,” he said.

“This is not a ‘short, sharp shock’, rather a crippling stranglehold that will result in many Scottish pubs and restaurants unable to reopen in lockdown areas if this becomes indefinite. While some premises may remain open, banning alcohol indoors will mean that many smaller businesses, family operated and at the heart of local Scottish communities, will not survive past winter and the longer-term impact will be felt for years to come.

“We have repeatedly asked for scientific data from the Scottish Government to validate these escalating restrictions and yet we have been singled out, charged and found guilty without any supporting evidence."

Montgomery echoed the sector’s calls for ministers to release more evidence justifying recent clamp downs on pubs, including the 10pm curfew. 

“Similarly, there is no evidence that alcohol is a transmitter of coronavirus, yet people can eat out in a restaurant but will now be refused the choice of a glass of wine with their meal," he added. "We understand that restrictions have to be put in place but decisions must be based on evidence, anything else is disproportionate and unfair.”

Related topics: Legislation

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