First Minister listens to pub operators concerns in call and apologises for using the term ‘hot spot’

nicola sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Surgeon has reassured Scotland’s pub operators that she will support the industry and visit their beer gardens when the time is right, and it is safe, as she apologised for using the words ‘hot spots’  in an hour-long call earlier this week.

For the first time since lockdown, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reached out to key operators in the Scottish licensed trade. She asked to speak to operators directly and orchestrated a call with the help of licensing lawyers including Jack Cummins of Miller Samuel Hill Brown and TLT’s Caroline Loudon, as well as the SPBA and SLTA.

Operators on the call included Nic Wood of Signature Pubs and Graeme Arnott of Caledonian Heritable as well as Elaine Kennedy of Hawthorn Leisure, David Balmanno of Admiral Inns and Andrew Lawrence of Molson Coors. Her call was organised a few days after the announcement that beer gardens could open on the 6th and hospitality on July 15th  – all going to plan.

The feedback was positive, said one, “We felt that she listened and she told us she was listening and I believed her. She also said that when the time was right and safe she would do her bit to support the trade including visiting a beer garden!” During the conversation, the First Minister admitted that she regretted using the word ‘hot spot’, and apologised.

However she reiterated that it was not a ‘guarantee’ that beer gardens would open on 6th – she told the people on the call, “I can’t guarantee anything at the moment.” And advised them that when pubs, bar and restaurants could open there would be ‘limitations’ and also suggested that she wasn’t just trying to bring the ‘R’ rate down, but her goal was to ‘eliminate’ the virus in Scotland.

She told the callers to wait for her own Government’s guidance and advised them that the 2m would not be reduced to 1m until the scientific advice allowed it.

Other key points discussed included: using internal toilets within premises and needing certainty and guidance around that topic; a call for the Chief Planner to confirm a relaxation of the 28-day rule on temporary structures; calls for further discussion and legal input into Track and Trace and the trade having to obtain personal details of patrons and retain for four weeks; the 2m rule and reducing that; the need for continued financial support for the trade; VAT and Beer Duty cuts needed.

One operator summed it up the general feeling, “It was a positive call and it was great to get a seat at the table. We like the ‘cut of her jib’.

Meanwhile, Fergus Ewing MSP has failed to appoint Scotland’s biggest on-trade operators onto his Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce – which is made up of 30 tourism businesses – the only independent operator is Tom Kitchin who has 5 units and 250 staff. Hotel businesses have been well represented.