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“Bitter disappointment” over Scotland’s recovery roadmap

Published:  24 February, 2021

The plan for a tentative reopening of Scotland’s economy including shops, bars and restaurants has been met with criticism by hospitality businesses who say an end of April start date will be too late for many.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that lockdown is due to wind down in the last week of April, with a “progressive easing” of restrictions before then.

However, there was no mention of what the road ahead might look like for hospitality businesses, which have been shuttered since before Christmas.

UKHospitality Scotland executive director Willie Macleod said that “a reopening date, even an ambiguous one, is a small step in the right direction”.

However, he voiced concerns that “hospitality will be shunted back into unrealistic Level 3 restrictions, which will be immensely damaging for the sector”.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) also voiced concerns, with media spokesman Paul Waterson commenting that “hospitality is not a ‘one size fits all’ sector”, while calling for more clarity for the breadth of pubs, restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs which depend on events and functions to survive.

“Of course, we welcome today’s news that the Scottish government is committed to continuing financial support for those firms suffering as a result of the pandemic,” he said.

“However, our response to today’s announcement is one of disappointment for the licensed hospitality industry which has been among the hardest hit by trading restrictions throughout the pandemic – an industry that invested an estimated £80m on becoming Covid compliant.”

The Scottish government has already extended the business rates holiday, meaning that hospitality, leisure and retail businesses in Scotland will pay no rates during 2021 and 2022. However, there have been calls for additional support alongside criticism of the grants available under the Temporary Closure and Business Restrictions schemes.

This morning, the SLTA released a statement saying it was “bitterly disappointed” that Sturgeon’s roadmap said nothing about the future of reopening for hospitality businesses other than that there will be a “reopening of the economy and society” from April 26.