In a Covid update yesterday (Tuesday 16 June), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon suggested the country moving to level zero of its coronavirus restrictions may be pushed back by three weeks.
It had been hoped the whole country would move to the lowest level from 28 June but a delay would allow more people to be protected by vaccinations, the minister said.
Trade bodies have called for more financial support and clarity on what regulations for pubs will look like beyond level zero, which still involves requirements like table service.
“Another summer season, essential for business survival, will be lost,” the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA)’s managing director Colin Wilkinson said.
He added: “The hospitality sector is at breaking point with today’s announcement that the brakes are on for further easing of restrictions.”
“There needs to be an extension to the current support schemes available such as furlough, VAT reduction, deferral of loan repayments and so on.
Most businesses are operating at a loss with slashed capacity and increased staff costs while many have been unable to reopen, the SLTA said.
Uncertainty for future
Nightclubs will still be unable to reopen under level zero restrictions.
Sturgeon said yesterday she was reluctant to provide any “firm” further easing dates as she did not want to provide “false guarantees” amid spread of the Delta virus variant.
However, the Scottish Government has said it will publish details of life beyond the current restrictions and a review of social distancing soon.
UKHospitality Scotland executive director, Leon Thompson said level zero was far from the end of venues’ and called for details on life beyond the levels framework “as quickly as possible.”
The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) called on ministers to “tweak” the current restrictions, with rules such as curfews causing mayhem for pubs amid the Euros football tournament.
Fan zone fury
In response to the signals of an unlocking delay, SHG spokesperson and operator Stephen Montgomery said: “This is a never-ending hell for hospitality workers and the businesses that employ them, especially those in the music and night-time sectors.”
Montgomery called for ministers to be “flexible and understanding” with the trade as it had been with a 6,000 capacity fan zone in Glasgow for the Euros.
He added: “A first step would be to base decisions more on hospital data than cases, as these clearly tell a different, more important story. We don’t shut down society and the economy every winter because of the flu. There’s got to be a balance.
“The health secretary was happy to reassure himself with a visit to the fanzone. We’ve been crying out repeatedly for senior ministers to do this with hospitality too and it’s never happened yet. Now is the perfect time to put that right.”