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Easing lockdown

Firms urged to back flexible working, staggered start times

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘no risk-free solution’

The first minister today said employers would be encouraged to introduce flexible working, staggered start times and four day weeks as part of a phased return to work.

Confirming a four-part phased easing of the lockdown measures, Nicola Sturgeon told parliament that “remote working will remain the default position”.

She told MSPs that “there is no risk-free way of lifting lockdown”, adding that “the danger of a second wave later in the year is very real indeed” and admitted that “I almost felt like crying” when she saw scenes of people sunbathing on the Portobello beach yesterday.

The First Minister spelled out a series of steps that will be taken but was criticised for failing to produce a clear timetable.

She confirmed that professional sport will start in phase two while waste, recycling and garden centres will reopen in the first phase. Plans for transport will be announced next week along with more details on the economy.

Teachers will return next month to prepare for the reopening of schools on 11 August.

In the first phase, beginning on 28 May, the construction industry will be able to “carefully implement” key steps in its restart plan with a “genuine partnership” with trade unions and preparations will be made for a reopening of the housing market.

People from two households will be able to meet and some GP services will resume. Drive-through food outlets can reopen as well as garden centres, but not cafes except for takeaways. Hiking, canoeing and swimming are added to golf, tennis, bowls and fishing.

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Small retail outlets, outdoor markets, factories, offices and laboratories will reopen in the next phase with safe distancing measures and the construction industry will fully reopen.

Pubs and restaurants with outdoor facilities can open, Weddings and civil partnerships with limited numbers and worship for private prayer will be allowed and dental practices reopen for urgent cases.

Non-essential offices will reopen in the third phase along with pubs, museums, galleries, hair salons and gyms and live events can take place with limited numbers. All workplaces and mass gatherings will be allowed in the fourth period.

Summary

Phase 1: Virus not yet contained but cases are falling. From 28 May you should be able to meet another household outside in small numbers. Sunbathing is allowed, along with some outdoor activities like golf and fishing. Garden centres and drive-through takeaways can reopen, some outdoor work can resume, and childminding services can begin.

Phase 2: Virus controlled. You can meet larger groups outdoors, and meet another household indoors. Construction, factories, warehouses, laboratories and small shops can resume work. Playgrounds and sports courts can reopen, and professional sport can begin again.

Phase 3: Virus suppressed. You can meet people from more than one household indoors. Non-essential offices would reopen, along with gyms, museums, libraries, cinemas, larger shops, pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and dentists. Live events could take place with restricted numbers and physical distancing restrictions. Schools should reopen from 11 August.

Phase 4: Virus no longer a significant threat. University and college campuses can reopen in full, mass gatherings are allowed. All workplaces open and public transport is back at full capacity.

See the full road map and government statement here

Retailers have reservations

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Our strong preference was for a re-opening of stores based on who can do so safely, as opposed to drawing lines in terms of different sizes or types of shop. 

“Our members in pharmacy, pet food, and grocery retailing have shown during the coronavirus crisis that it is perfectly possible to operate safely and responsibly, regardless of the size of premises. 

“That said, the First Minister’s plan does at least provide a sense of the way ahead and plots a route back to trading. That’s important for retailers, consumers and our economy.”

CBI calls for clearer guidance

Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said: “For the Scottish construction industry, which has been hit so hard by the crisis, the resumption of activity in phase one will come as a significant relief.  

“With the UK Government having already provided a helpful template looking at workplace settings, firms will be keen to see an acceleration of specific workplace guidance for Scotland that follows the same approach.”

FSB wants more clarity

Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland policy chairman, said: “Many businesses will be required to make adjustments to their workplaces before the shutters can come up. But at the moment there’s little guidance for firms in Scotland regarding what those alterations might be. 

“While the First Minister said today that this guidance is coming in the days ahead, there is no time to lose. 

“There can be no further delay in getting this vital information out the door in a format that’s easy to understand. In addition, smaller businesses may require an advice service to help them make appropriate changes.

“While we recognise that this is a public health crisis, it is also an economic crisis.”

Builders say ‘we’re already prepared’

Vaughan Hart, managing director of the Scottish Building Federation (SBF), said: “I welcome the fact the Scottish Government have given priority to the construction industry returning to work.

“But many of our members have already spent the past weeks undertaking the kind of preparatory work envisaged to ensure sites are safe and will be ready to begin building works through a “soft start” either immediately or by the end of May.”

Homes for Scotland: no reason for delays

Scotland’s home building industry has expressed its “continuing frustration” at what it views as unnecessary further delay to a safe return to work.

Nicola Barclay, chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland, said: “The construction industry has spent the last nine or so weeks working on a restart plan to enable a safe return to work as soon as it was considered appropriate and which has been agreed with the Scottish Government. 

“There is no reason to delay the start of a phased return beyond next Thursday. It is no exaggeration to say that to wait any longer could prove too late for many businesses and jobs.”

Chambers regret lack of detail

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “Whilst today’s route map helps us to understand the sequencing of relaxing the lockdown, the absence of a more detailed time plan for each phase still means that businesses, employees and consumers cannot make plans with complete certainty.”

Property chief questions ‘pace and process

Robin Blacklock, chairman of the Scottish Property Federation, said; “We welcome these steps towards re-starting our economy, but there are still considerable questions to be asked of government around the pace and processes for construction sites to reopen. 

“We need to see published guidance on the steps contractors and developers need to be making now, in order to integrate these into the plans already being made for a safe and gradual return to work. 

Garden centres criticise delay

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) Chairman, James Barnes, said: “Whilst we welcome confirmation that garden centres will be able to re-open as part of the first phase of relaxing lockdown in Scotland, we need a clear date for re-opening.  

“Garden centres need a definite timetable to allow them to plan and re-open in a safe and managed way, as they have done throughout the rest of the UK.”

Hospitality group warns of ‘more harm than good’

UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland, Willie Macleod said: “We are seriously concerned that the Scottish Government’s plan for reopening will do more harm than good.

“It appears not to be based in any logic and has the potential to create a two-tier sector with many already-hammered businesses being left behind.

“Subjecting businesses that do not have outdoor spaces but could operate perfectly safely to further forced closure is illogical and will do serious harm. 

“Hospitality and tourism businesses in Scotland have already been hammered by this crisis and most will have had no revenue for over three months. Many businesses have also struggled to access financial support and the larger businesses have been denied grant support altogether. 

“The reality is that some businesses will not survive this crisis. The Scottish Government’s plan for reopening must ensure that every single business is given the best possible chance to survive. The route map announced does not do this.

Football calls for resumption of training

The Scottish Professional Football League is asking for permission to resume club training from 10 June.

The SPFL is still hoping to play League Cup matches at some point in July, but that notion is now looking increasingly unlikely.

Comment: Business left frustrated amid the known unknowns

See also:

Comment: Sturgeon needs to avoid the jobs dam bursting



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