Scottish Government urged to extend opening hours

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Sucker punch: pubs in Scotland face heavy measures on opening hours and serving alcohol under its tiered restrictions
Sucker punch: pubs in Scotland face heavy measures on opening hours and serving alcohol under its tiered restrictions

Related tags Scotland Scottish Aberdeen Glasgow Edinburgh Drinks Legislation Health and safety lockdown

Scottish pubs have been severed a “sucker punch” by the Government with its new levelled system of coronavirus measures, according to one trade group.

The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) has urged the Scottish Government to “tweak the tiers,” which have meant pubs in large swathes of the country are unable to serve alcohol, under level three.

What’s more, most pubs can either only operate until 6pm or 8pm, if categorised as under level three or level two.

SHG asked the Government to extend trading hours in these areas to 10pm to help businesses meet overheads. It has argued there is no scientific evidence backing closing at 6pm or 8pm and asked policymakers to provide evidence, justifying present measures. 

Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced three areas would face tougher measures, with Fife, Angus and Perth and Kinross to be moved from level two to level three.

Sturgeon said "it will not be prudent to ease restrictions today," though no areas have yet been placed in the strictest level (level four).

"There is no doubt the restrictions we have put in place and that people are abiding by have dramatically slowed the spread of the virus," she added.

Protect the public

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: “Remaining in the current tiers, or even worse moving up a tier, is a sucker punch for hard-working hospitality staff who face losing their jobs. The government asked us for refinements to the current restrictions that would protect the public and allow us to trade viably. We provided those recommendations, but they were completely ignored.”

SHG estimated its members in total were losing £1m for every week they are forced to shut or operate under tight regulations.

This estimation rises to weekly losses of £1.5m when the costs of closing businesses down is factored in.

Montgomery added: “We have also repeatedly raised the staggering shortfall in financial support for a vital Scottish industry. Once again, businesses are having to plan how they and their staff can survive. If the Government won’t let us trade viably, then it must honour its promises to provide sufficient grant support for viable operations.”

Safe places

Signature Pub Group director Nic Wood said: “The more viable we can be then the less of a burden we will be on the country and we will still provide safe places for people to socialise.

"Were it not for furlough, 75,000 people in the central belt would have lost their jobs this week. But the businesses that employ these people still need support to cover the furlough contribution and fixed costs.

“The Scottish Government must sit up and listen to what industry is saying to them or the majority of hospitality businesses, particularly the small, independent operators without deep pockets, will not be here past Christmas. Just tweaking the guidance slightly will save thousands of jobs and save the taxpayer millions while still giving the public a safe place to meet friends and family.”

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