Scotland closures 'worst possible news'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

3 weeks closed: pubs in areas in the west of Scotland will have to shut on Friday
3 weeks closed: pubs in areas in the west of Scotland will have to shut on Friday

Related tags: Scotland, Scottish, Glasgow

Pubs across eleven council areas in Scotland will be forced to close for three weeks, the First Minister announced today.

Nicola Sturgeon announced that several areas in the west of Scotland would be moved to the toughest band of coronavirus restrictions to curb infection rates.

Pubs in areas including Glasgow, Renfrewshire and Stirling will be forced to call last orders on Friday 20 November and must remain shut until restrictions expire on 11 December.

It marks the first time areas have been placed into level four of Scotland’s new tiered system of restrictions, which began at the start of November.

The series of restrictions are similar to the lockdown of the spring, with “non-essential businesses” closed and socialising between households banned. However, schools will remain open this time.

Significant concern

Sturgeon said there was “ground for continued and significant concern” about the levels of infection in the areas to be moved to level four.

Those council areas are: the City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.

The First Minister said there were “real reasons to be optimistic” about progress with the development of an effective vaccine. However, she urged people to continue “holding firm” and keep following rules.

The areas of East Lothian and Midlothian will move down from level three to level two from Tuesday 24 November.

This means they will be able to serve alcohol with a meal until 8pm. 

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) dubbed the announcement as "the worst possible news for the licensed hospitality industry."

The SLTA’s managing director, Colin Wilkinson, said many operators would now be considering permanently closing their sites.

Ever-changing guidelines

Wilkinson said: “Many operators in levels two and three areas have already taken the reluctant decision to close down their businesses as it is simply unviable to operate with the current restrictions on the sale of alcohol and the operating times that are currently in place. Even hotels and restaurants serving food feel defeated by these unnecessarily complex and ever-changing guidelines.

“Moving into level four suggests that the closing of pubs and bars in October in five health board areas, prior to the introduction of the tier system, has done little to bring down the rate of Covid-19 infections.

“And yet again, there has been no meaningful engagement with our industry and there has been no evidence to prove that the virus is being spread within the licensed hospitality sector.

“We reiterate that we support the goal of suppressing the virus – of course we do. But we also reiterate that we are a sector in crisis with hundreds of businesses facing permanent closure and thousands of jobs hanging in the balance. Sadly, for some, the damage is already irreparable."

The SLTA estimated it would cost a small wet-led pub £2,000 to close, a medium food pub around £6,000, and a large pub between £8,000 and £10,000.

The Scottish Hospitality Group has questioned the focus on hospitality given rates have remained high despite heavy restrictions on pubs for several weeks.

Virus responsibility 

Group spokesperson Stephen Montgomery said: “Since most hospitality businesses are either shut or virtually empty, how can they possibly be responsible for the spread of the virus? Some parts of the country are even seeing increases and it’s certainly not because people are out drinking or socialising in our premises."

Montgomery said the science pointed to household transmission being the main factor.

The group is calling for off-trade sales of alcohol to be cut off at 10pm in level two areas.

Montgomery added: "If alcohol was really that much of an issue then off-sales would have been restricted, but instead people are allowed to make spur-of-the-moment purchases to socialise with friends or family at home.

"Not only do homes lack the safety measures that we have in our businesses, for example the legal trace and protect system, but there’s no visibility of the problem for the government and people are never going to self-report that they’ve been breaking the rules.”

Related topics: Licensing law

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