After what has felt like an eternity for the trade, Nicola Sturgeon has just told a virtual parliament that Scotland’s move to level 0 on Monday 9th August will mean the end of legal indoor and outdoor physical distancing and businesses being forced to close. Masks and collecting customer details will remain a legal requirement though, and this includes nightclubs that are nevertheless finally getting the green light for go.
When questioned by Pauline McNeill MSP whether masks would be required in nightclubs or for dancing, Nicola Sturgeon said that ScotGov is yet to ‘finalise guidance’ but hinted that they may be exempt.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group is disappointed by the lack of clarity from the first minister.
He told DRAM, “The waters are still muddy. Saying that social distancing is not legal but advisable is like being at a traffic light at amber – do you go or do you not?
“How are face coverings going to work in nightclubs? What about door staff trying to talk someone down by being friendly and open when the customer can’t see their face?
“Similarly, what is going to happen to vertical drinking at the bar? Having people seated is a labour cost to us so we’ll be looking for clarity on this.”
The government is still considering whether a certificate proving people have been vaccinated will be needed to enter ‘higher-risk’ events and venues, a point of concern for Marc Crothall, CEO Scottish Tourism Alliance, likewise the need for further financial support for struggling businesses.
He said, “Further clarity around the definition of ‘high risk venues’ which may require Covid certification will need to be given over the coming days; it’s also hugely important that the legal requirement for wearing masks is placed on the consumer and not just the venue to enable businesses to maintain compliance and trade effectively without jeopardising licenses. I know that all sectors will be doing their utmost to build public confidence around safety as we progress beyond level 0.
“It is however important to highlight that with so many trading weeks lost and the requirement for debt to be repaid, the need for support for tourism and hospitality businesses cannot be overlooked; it will indeed be some time before businesses can become financially sustainable although today’s news marks that huge step forwards after the most difficult period for Scotland’s tourism industry.”
UKHospitality Scotland Executive Director Leon Thompson thinks that there are still tough times ahead for hospitality.
He said, “The First Minister’s announcement also provided some sobering analysis of future steps the Scottish Government may take if necessary. UKHospitality Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to continue to engage with the sector on issues like proposals for a vaccine passport. Similarly, the Scottish Government needs to work with us to identify ways to build the resilience of the sector.
“After almost 18 months of closure and restricted opening, businesses are carrying unprecedented amounts of short-term debt – much of it due for payment now. After coming this far these viable businesses must not be allowed to fall at the last hurdle.
“Hospitality businesses are already demonstrating they are catalysts for economic recovery in every part of the country, but to keep doing this they need ongoing backing and support from the Scottish Government, as well as UK-wide measures on reserved matters, such as a permanently lower rate of VAT.”
Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that cases are falling and that the number of people in hospital is also declining, that three million people have had both doses of the vaccine, and that the vaccination programme has ‘weakened the link between transmission and health harms.’
She said, “All of this is good news and I think it demonstrates the value of taking a steady approach to easing restrictions”.
She also she said that she wanted to express her ‘deep appreciation for the sacrifices that have been made,’ adding a few mitigations, such as localised restrictions and travel restrictions when necessary, while large events of more than 2000 indoors and 500 outdoors will require permission to run, and that people are still advised to work from home or adopt a hybrid working model where possible..
She added that there are no guarantees that the higher level of Covid restrictions won’t come into force again, like during the winter months. .