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Lockdown easing

Bar owners’ hopes tempered by PM’s warning

Shambles York

York’s famous Shambles will welcome back shoppers (pic: Terry Murden)

Scottish hospitality businesses were left wondering if they would see any significant easing of restrictions after Boris Johnson warned against “over-optimism” about a return to near-normal conditions.

While offering the prospect of the coronavirus being beaten following another breakthrough on vaccines, the Prime Minister told MPs that it will soon be the season to be jolly, but also “jolly careful”. 

He said many areas in England face going into even tougher tiers after 2 December than they were in before the national lockdown.

He said there were difficult months facing the country before the “cavalry'”of science comes to the rescue.

He announced that shops and gyms will reopen in all tiers across England, while there is the potential for small family gatherings over the festive season. Limited numbers of sports fans would be allowed back into stadiums. A maximum of 4,000 fans are set to be allowed at outdoor events in the lowest-risk areas.

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But pubs and restaurants face continuing restrictions, prompting warnings that three quarters of hospitality firms could go bust. 

Restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be determined separately, including plans for Christmas, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was also keen not to raise expectations, confirming expectations that New Year celebrations would not go ahead.

She said a deal on a UK-wide approach to Christmas would be announced later in the week and would need to be “sensible and careful” to prevent a fresh wave of new cases in January.

She added: “I do not expect that we will be announcing any particular relaxation over the new year period.”

On Monday night Ms Sturgeon said plans to move Midlothian from level three to level two had been postponed because of an increase in case numbers. East Lothian will move to level two from 6am on Tuesday as planned.

An announcement on a four-nation plan for Christmas is expected to include rules on cross-border travel.

Ms Sturgeon said talks were “making progress”, but stressed that “details of this approach are still to be finalised”.

The Scottish Football Association and and SPFL have called on the Scottish Government to start planning for fans returning to football grounds.

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