As new levels announced...
Calls for talks with Sturgeon as hospitality anger grows
Pubs continue to take the brunt of the restrictions (pic: Terry Murden)
Businesses are demanding urgent talks with Nicola Sturgeon amid growing frustration at a lack of consultation and guarantees on funding for the next wave of restrictions on trade.
One hospitality group said the five-level Covid restrictions for each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities do nothing to help the licensed hospitality industry and will lead to “confusion and distress”.
Another group warned of “chaos and failure” and accused the Scottish government of ignoring a list of proposals that would help businesses stay open and save jobs.
Pubs, restaurants and cinemas in some local authority areas will be able to re-open for limited hours from next week but will not be allowed to sell alcohol. Some say this will make them unviable.
Television chef Tom Kitchin who runs restaurants in Leith and Stockbridge said in a tweet to the First Minister: “We all want to drive the virus down & we will work within restrictions, but to not allow serving alcohol in restaurants is catastrophic. We need these sales to help pay staff & our suppliers. This is serious.”
His comment drew contrasting opinions from those who say the government’s strategy is misguided and those who were quick to issue reminders of the growing death toll and the need for businesses to make sacrifices.
The Scottish Tourism Alliance has formally requested a meeting with the First Minister to discuss the impact of the new restrictions and renewed its call for a robust package of support for the sector.
STA spokesman Marc Crothall said: “We have always understood the need to balance public health and the economy, however we are now at a point where many hundreds of businesses simply do not have the income or funding support to remain solvent.”
Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said the government’s new system was neither proportionate nor sustainable.
“Over the weekend we put together a detailed, workable plan for how hospitality could operate safely and viably in each tier. The Scottish Government did not take on board one single recommendation that we put forward to save jobs,” he said.
“This is yet another example of government talking to industry but not listening. Saving jobs is key to protecting people’s livelihoods and the economy. It’s not rocket science – too few hours and too many staff exclude many businesses from claiming the Job Retention Scheme.
Paul Waterson: ‘members simply can’t take any more of this’
“The government must acknowledge that the new restrictions will end in hundreds, if not thousands of job losses.”
Paul Waterson, media spokesman for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: “The situation couldn’t get any worse and we are fielding calls from members who simply can’t take any more of this. They are deeply worried about the future and this will lead to further confusion and distress.
“It will cause utter devastation and sleepless nights for industry owners, operators and staff who will spend this weekend wondering if their businesses are going to be viable, if they are going to still have jobs and, indeed, if they will even still have a business.”
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “It is critical that Government commit to demonstrating effective working by listening and engaging with the business community, understanding our concerns and collectively identifying solutions which could reduce the growth of the virus, whilst enabling businesses to trade and keep our employees.
“To help all of us to understand how we are progressing, it is essential that the tiered system provides a greater level of detail and transparency, indicating the criteria and trigger points when areas move from one stage to another.”
Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses’s Scotland policy chairman, said: “The success of this new Scottish Government approach depends upon Ministers wielding their powers like a scalpel not a hammer.
Andrew McRae: Ministers must explore alternative policies
“However the travel ban outlined by the First Minister has significant implications for many businesses, like rural firms dependent on visitors from the city.
“At the earliest possible opportunity, Ministers must explore alternative policies on this front. And in the meantime, they must provide real help for businesses hit by this change.”
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said he was relieved no local authority area faced the closure of non-essential shops.
He said: “SRC has consistently advocated greater visibility and certainty over potential next steps for future Covid restrictions, particularly in the run up to the critical Christmas trading period. After months of chopping and changing this new framework offers the prospect of a more consistent approach which is most welcome.
“We recognise the need for government to act quickly to protect public health and help combat coronavirus, however we do have lingering concerns about the incredibly short timescales envisaged for implementing any future moves into the highest tier, and the practical challenges for retailers and suppliers that could pose.”
Business reaction followed Ms Sturgeon’s announcement to MSPs on which levels would apply to each council area.
She told MSPs some decisions were “borderline” and hoped some areas would be moved down a level “at a very early review point”.