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Mandatory closures ‘death sentence’ for Scottish on-trade

Licensed venues in Scotland’s central belt have been ordered to close from tomorrow under new measures branded a “death sentence” for the industry.

Bars in Scotland’s central belt have been ordered to close their doors

As the number of coronavirus cases in Scotland rose by 1,054 yesterday, first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced tighter restrictions in the county in an effort to curtail the spread of the virus.

Under the new restrictions, all licensed premises will be required to close in Scotland’s central belt, which includes Ayrshire and Arran, Forth Valley, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, and Lothian.

Across the rest of Scotland, hospitality venues may open for indoor service between 6am and 6pm, and may remain open until 10pm for outdoor service. The measures will come into force on Friday (9 October) at 6pm.

Sturgeon said: “While there are significant restrictions still in place – and they are hard and painful – we are living much more freely now than in the spring and early summer.

“We are determined – if at all possible – that this will continue to be the case. We are not going back into lockdown today. We are not closing schools. We are not halting the remobilisation of the NHS for non-Covid care. And we are not asking people to stay at home.

“The need for action is highlighted by today’s figures and, more fundamentally, in the evidence paper published today. To try to interrupt this trajectory, we must act now. While the measures will feel like a backward step, they are in the interests of protecting our progress overall.

“It is by taking the tough but necessary action now that we hope to avoid even tougher action in future.”

‘Death sentence’

The new measures have been branded a “death sentence” for the Scottish on-trade by trade association the Scottish Hospitality Group.

Elsewhere in Scotland, bars must close at 6pm

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the group, said: “The first minister has effectively signed a death sentence for many businesses across the Scottish hospitality industry, while the real problem is socialising at home. We have repeatedly implemented the safety measures required by government and more to protect our customers and staff. We are part of the solution to combat this virus, not part of the problem.

“We have repeatedly asked for scientific data from the Scottish government to validate these escalating restrictions and yet we have been singled out, charged and found guilty without any supporting evidence.

“We have warned the government that this approach is catastrophic for an industry which is vital to the fight against Covid-19. As well as the public health risks of shutting down the Scottish hospitality sector, the economic cost will be catastrophic for an industry worth £10.6 billion [US$13.7bn] to the Scottish economy annually and which employs 285,000 people, many of whom are young Scots under 25. Countless jobs will be lost forever if businesses which are already on their knees are forced to close.”

‘Total catastrophe’

Alongside the new restrictions imposed on the hospitality industry in Scotland, the government also announced a £40 million (US$51m) support fund for business. However, trade group UK Hospitality said the measures were insufficient to support the sector.

UK Hospitality executive director for Scotland, Willie Macleod, said: “This is a total catastrophe. Scottish hospitality is already on the brink and is unable to look ahead with any degree of confidence.

“The first minister stated that hospitality was by far the most impacted of sectors and we now need urgent confirmation of the details of the support package and how it will be applied. Without detail, it looks as though the £40m announced by the first minister will not nearly be sufficient to support the sector. Any support to underwrite furlough will have to go far beyond the Job Support Scheme, which seems unlikely to be taken up by many hospitality businesses.”

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