Sir Tom Hunter backs hospitality and First Minister tells STA the book is not closed on 2-metre rule

nicola sturgeon

Sir Tom Hunter lent Scotland’s hospitality businesses his support across radio and TV this week. He revealed that he had presented the Scottish Government with case-studies from licensed trade entrepreneurs, of all sizes, the length and breadth of Scotland. In an interview with John Beattie on BBC’s Drivetime, he said, “I am really worried about the hospitality industry. Lots of people from the hospitality sector have told me the 2-metre rule doesn’t work and that they shouldn’t be spending Capex and valuable pounds to make a nonsensical policy work. The 2-metre rule needs to be reviewed.”

He also suggested that Benny Higgens, the Chair of the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, put some entrepreneurs who are on the front line, and the job creators, on his committee. Said Sir Tom, “What is missing at the moment is the people on the front lines. These people really know what is going on in the economy. If the Government listens to these sorts of people it will lead to a better policy coming out the other end. If they don’t the job losses are going to be catastrophic.”

He concluded, “The bottom line is, of course, the safest thing to do is lock yourself in the house and never see anyone ever again. But that is not a great result. That’s why I have sympathy for the Government. They have to listen to scientists but they have to listen to job creators as well.”

The following day in a call with the Scottish Tourism Alliance First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Chief Executive Marc Crothall, and Chairman Stephen Leckie, “I would prefer to get to one metre if the evidence and advice points in that direction. Right now, it does not. There are no absolutes in this. There are transmission risks at 2 metres, but these are less than they are at 1 metre. And the shorter the distance, the more other mitigating factors like face coverings may be needed.

“Some of the emerging evidence about how the virus transmits is looking at clusters or superspreader situations. For argument’s sake, a pub would benefit practically from 1 metre but if the evidence tells us that this type of environment may pose a greater risk, that has to be considered.

“We’re not sticking to 2 metres just for the sake of it. Everything has a reason and we will move as quickly away from these situations as is safe to do.

“Scientists who advise us are saying don’t change the rule at the moment – they’re not necessarily saying never change the rule.

“The book on this is not closed and we will continue to consider this carefully. I have to be satisfied with the balance of risk and satisfied that the risk we are taking is not unacceptably high.

“The situation with ferries may be very different for the situation in a pub. Scientists consider where the virus spreads more easily – that may be in places where, eg, the pattern of breathing is different because you’re shouting. In places like pubs, restaurants, clubs the risk may be greater. The balance may change over time as evidence emerges and the virus begins to recede.

“We are looking at evidence on an ongoing basis. We are considering making face coverings mandatory on public transport as this is something that may allow us to ease restrictions there. The 2-metre rule will be considered on an ongoing basis. Scientific advice is that we shouldn’t change the 2-metre rule at the moment.”

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