There is no doubt about it the hospitality industry in Scotland feels like it has been left out in the cold by the Scottish Government. It has had to fight tooth and nail over the course of this pandemic to survive and to get even the slightest concessions. And this week summed it up… draft guidance published on Friday, and confirmed during the week, introducing Physical Distance Based Capacity (PDBC) has once again left the industry in a spin, with the goalposts appearing to have moved, yet again.
The requirements around social distancing are now even more onerous. Although our First Minister and her fellow ministers tell us nothing has changed. We have been told the new methodology was to “support rather than replace that ongoing work by providing a methodology for calculating the physical distanced capacity of a public setting.”
But what it really boils down to is that our politicians have a woeful understanding of how hospitality operates. You would have thought they would have plugged this knowledge gap over the last year by including experts on hospitality, particularly operators, when it comes to setting out the guidance and when setting mitigations. But it is quite clear they haven’t.
Is it any surprise that there has been confusion over the current hospitality guidance which has now been revised 239 times. And perhaps I could understand the Scottish Government clamping down further IF hospitality had been at the heart of transmissions last year – but there is absolutely no evidence it was – and if there had been evidence I can assure you we would have seen it by now! We all know the cases were low in hospitality, particularly considering the number of customers and staff involved.
The current guidance in my view is absurd – as it has pointed out to me, and to the government – if you want to seat six people outside from different households you need a table the size of a snooker table.
Not only that but in level 0 the guidance allows 30 people to sit outside – according to the PDBC methodology this would require a table the size of a bus!
It also appears that some LSO’ and EHO’s are taking a rather zealous approach and are asking for even more mitigations than were required last year. You have to ask the question if they have issued guidance to the hospitality industry why not to the regulatory bodies? So that everyone is singing from the same song sheet.
And talking of singing from the same song sheet – you have Professor John Edward Risk a member of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group saying “There is really almost no instance that we know of, of transmission occurring outside.” A view shared by the head of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in Ireland. But not by our own Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith who has said that there was a “theoretical” risk of Covid, whether people were indoors or outdoors saying, “That’s why the guidance still says that even if you’re outdoors if you’re not from the same households as others sitting at the same table there should be that distancing in place just to make sure it’s as safe as possible.”
We all want to make things as safe as possible, and hospitality operators have been great ambassadors for this. It is time that the Scottish Government recognised this.
I wish everyone good luck next week. And let me know if your EHO’s and LSO’s are being overzealous or indeed just the opposite. It would be good to have some good news.