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Scottish trade associations warn of further hardship

Published:  23 June, 2021

Scottish trade associations have expressed disappointment and concern on the delay in easing restrictions, which they claim could cause more business failures and hardship for the sector.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the current restrictions would remain in place for the next three weeks. She said a review would take place on 13 July, but confirmed minor relaxations to rules on events such as weddings and funerals would come into place on 28 June. 

She also said that assuming that the country meets the necessary conditions on vaccination and harm reduction that it is planning to ease legal restrictions on 9 August.

Hospitality businesses in the country have been under a range of restrictions depending on the numbers of infections but it was hoped that these could be eased to Level 0.

At the beginning of June pubs and restaurants in Scotland were in a transition phase as the First Minister revealed a cautious easing of restrictions with Glasgow to move to level 2. 

In her latest statement yesterday Sturgeon said: “By 19 July, three weeks will have elapsed since the completion of the vaccination programme for over 50s, which means that the vaccine will be giving everyone in that age group a significant level of protection.

“Therefore, assuming we are meeting the revised strategic aim, we hope that all parts of Scotland, not currently in that level, can move to level 0 on 19 July.”

Emma McClarkin, CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association said: “It is very disappointing for our sector that we have yet another delay to the easing of restrictions. The hospitality industry has borne the brunt of these measures since March 2020, and every day that goes by with them in place causes more hardship and will result in further business failures. 

“It is positive that we now have indicative dates alongside vaccination milestones, but we desperately need to see an end to these restrictions altogether. Our sector’s recovery does not begin until that point. The 9th August cannot come soon enough.”

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) thanked the Scottish government for offering clarity to the industry but called for social distancing measures to be dropped as soon as possible.

“However, there are still challenges and we remain concerned that being unable to open without restrictions means that businesses cannot trade at full capacity – it is absolutely crucial that the one-metre social distancing rule is dropped as soon as possible to allow premises to increase customer capacity,” said Paul Waterson, media spokesman for the SLTA.

“Currently, we can only operate at around 30% of our capacity, but with increased staff costs to provide table service and fewer tables because of social distancing rules, most business continue to operate at a loss, racking up further debt every time they open the doors.”

He also pointed out that for many premises that are still unable to open because of their size or the entertainment they provide, the situation is even more serious. 

“So we continue to call for further financial aid to ensure the survival of the licensed hospitality industry as it plays its part in rebuilding the economy,” he said.