Legal process initiated against Scottish restrictions

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Scotland Scottish Legislation Health and safety Glasgow Edinburgh

A coalition of Scottish hospitality trade bodies has launched legal action against the Scottish Government’s restrictions on pubs.

A judicial review has been initiated by the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, UKHospitality (Scotland), the Scottish Hospitality Group and the Night Time Industries Association Scotland.

It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced temporary restrictions on Scotland’s hospitality sector were to be extended another week.

Pubs in the central belt have been closed while others face heavy operating restrictions.

The five associations served the Scottish Government a pre-action letter yesterday morning, after receiving legal advice from legal expert Aidan O’Neill QC.

In the letter, the groups requested a response from the Scottish Government by 4pm on Wednesday 28 October 2020. If they do not respond, the group could pursue a petition for Judicial Review.

Breaking point

Measures imposed on the sector are not proportionate to the risk they pose and are not backed up by the science, the groups claim.

What's more, they have said the financial support offered to the licensed trade has not been nearly enough to prevent huge job losses and businesses going under.

In a joint statement the coalition's spokesperson, Paul Waterson said: “It is with regret that we now commence with this first stage in the legal process. We understand and entirely support the goal of suppressing the virus, but our sector is at breaking-point.

“Despite having more mitigation measures than other sectors and the vast majority of operators going above-and-beyond in ensuring customer safety, our sector has been repeatedly targeted without consultation and without the evidence.

“Anecdotal evidence is not the way to go about making government decisions and the sector should not be used as a balance to uncontrollable risks in other far less regulated and unmonitored sectors."

Sacrificial lamb

Waterson highlighted evidence from Northern Ireland which stated the closure of hospitality only has an '0.1-0.2 impact on the R number' and said it had been suggested the sector was "held up as the sacrificial lamb".

“The economic support offered to premises doesn’t come close to compensating the businesses and means jobs are being lost and livelihoods ruined," he added. "Any measures must be proportionate and be backed up by evidence, we do not believe that is the case here.

“The industry simply cannot endure the extension of the current restriction, further restrictive measures expected from the 2nd of November or get into a stop start situation. We are now facing the end of our industry as we know it.

“The battle is now on to save the hospitality sector.”

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