Sturgeon 'signs death sentence' for Scottish hospitality as new restrictions announced

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Sturgeon 'signs death sentence' for Scottish hospitality businesses as indoor alcohol ban and restaurant closures announced

Related tags Scotland Coronavirus lockdown

Hospitality businesses in central Scotland will be required to close for 16 days from Friday, with licensed premises across the rest of the country temporarily banned from selling alcohol indoors.

The closures will apply to restaurants, pubs and bars across the central belt, including in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In the rest of the country licensed hospitality venues will be able to remain open, but with severe restrictions in place.

Indoor service will be subject to a 6pm curfew and businesses will not be allowed to serve alcohol indoors.

Hotel restaurants will be able to operate beyond 6pm, but only for residents and without alcohol.

All licensed hospitality will be able to continue selling alcohol outdoors up to the current curfew of 10pm.

In the five health board areas that cover the central belt, which include Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, the Lothians, Ayrshire and Arran and Forth Valley, all licensed premises – with the exception of hotels for residents – will be required to close completely, though takeaways will be permitted.

The new rules come into force at 6pm on Friday, and will be in place until 25 October.

During her statement this afternoon (7 October), Sturgeon also announced that the Scottish Government would be making available an additional £40m to support businesses that will be affected by these measures over the next two weeks.

However, how businesses are able to access that money is yet to be made clear, with the First Minister saying she would be taking a day or two' to consult with the hospitality industry on how best to distribute the funds.

Sturgeon has described the measures as being intended to be a 'short, sharp action to arrest a worrying increase in infection', but she admitted that they would be disruptive to many businesses and would be unwelcome to many people.

It comes as Scotland recorded more than 1,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in a single day for the first time - although the country is doing far more testing now than at the height of the pandemic earlier in the year.

Responding to Sturgeon's announcement, the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), which comprises nine of the country’s largest independent hospitality operators and collectively employ over 6,000 people, declared that the First Minister had 'effectively signed a death sentence for many businesses across the Scottish hospitality industry'.

"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," says SHG spokesperson Stephen Montgomery.

“This latest blow from the Scottish Government will create fear and anger across our industry. This is not a “short, sharp shock”, rather a crippling stranglehold that will result in many Scottish pubs and restaurants unable to reopen in lockdown areas if this becomes indefinite.

"While some premises may remain open, banning alcohol indoors will mean that many smaller businesses, family operated and at the heart of local Scottish communities, will not survive past winter and the longer-term impact will be felt for years to come.

“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.

"Similarly, there is no evidence that alcohol is a transmitter of Coronavirus, yet people can eat out in a restaurant but will now be refused the choice of a glass of wine with their meal. We understand that restrictions have to be put in place but decisions must be based on evidence, anything else is disproportionate and unfair.

“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 £10.6bn 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. 

“If the hospitality sector is being singled out for specific restrictions then it is only fair that the Government provides sector specific financial compensation and while welcome in principle the £40m funding announced by the Scottish Government, we will need to see more detail on how this will actually work for our sector.” 

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