Foreign trips and bar rules to be eased in Scotland
A list of countries for travel will be announced
Nicola Sturgeon has announced a relaxation of the Covid restrictions from Monday, earlier than had been expected.
The First Minister will introduce a similar traffic light system and a list of permitted countries to visit.
It signals the restart of much of the tourism sector which will come as a relief to thousands of businesses.
The changes will also allow pubs and restaurants to sell alcohol indoors and they will be allowed to stay open until 10.30pm, but distancing rules stay in place.
Event organisers will be able to apply to host more than a hundred people.
Ms Sturgeon also announced that the requirement for social distancing during meetings indoors or in private gardens would be dropped.
Up to six adults from three households will be able to meet indoors in a public place.
Restrictions on meeting up outdoors will ease further, to enable up to eight adults from eight different households to gather.
Pubs will be allowed to reopen (pic: Terry Murden)
Adult outdoor contact sports and indoor group exercises will be able to resume.
Cinemas, bingo halls and amusement arcades are also likely to be able to reopen.
A “more fundamental review” of physical distancing will be carried out in the next three weeks, which will look at whether there can be further relaxations.
However, there continued to be some concern over the changes. Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the SLTA (Scottish Licensed Trade Association) called for a quick resolution to the uncertainty around physical distancing. Ms Sturgeon said that it would no longer be necessary in homes but remain in force in other settings, including pubs and restaurants.
“We need clarity on this as soon as possible as hospitality businesses operating small premises are simply not viable with physical distancing in place,” said Mr Wilkinson.
“This reaffirms the stark reality of the challenges facing the licensed trade in that we’re a long way from fully reopening despite the positivity of today’s announcement. And bear in mind that the late-night hospitality industry, including nightclubs, remains in meltdown with no indication of when it can start to welcome back customers.
“Many businesses will continue to fall further into debt and we have previously pointed out that a typical small hospitality business has taken on between £60,000 and £90,000 in bank debt and deferred bills as of February this year just to survive Covid, with that debt rising with every week of low or no income.”
Joanne Dooey, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association, says, “It’s a relief for the entire travel sector that limited international travel will be permitted from 17 May, in Scotland in a four nations’ approach.
“Although it should be remembered that there are limited flights to the green light countries from Scotland and that some of the green light countries are not currently permitting entry for travellers from the UK.”
Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “We need to see the Scottish Government pick up the pace on the re-opening of offices in our towns and city centres. This would not only support the health and wellbeing of our employees but would also support the recovery and restart of our vibrant cities and towns.
Liz Cameron: offices need to reopen (pic: Terry Murden)
“The continued government advice on avoiding international travel will harm the tourism industry. Business support should be provided for the expected loss of trade and most importantly, we urge the Scottish Government to work with industry to kickstart international travel safely and show that Scotland is open for business.”
Boris Johnson earlier announced that the next stage of easing lockdown will go ahead in England from 17 May. Pubs, restaurants and cafes can welcome customers through the doors and friends and families can mix inside and stay overnight.
Travel is allowed to a limited number of countries on a green list without quarantine.
In an attempt to show that she is focused on the recovery, Ms Sturgeon said that fighting the pandemic and guiding the country safely through the rest of the pandemic was her number one priority.
“Since the election, I have been back at my desk, consulting with clinical advisers on our next steps as we gradually hope to return the country to something much more like normality.
“Today we will outline those latest steps in lifting restrictions, while also making clear that we need to remain vigilant against any resurgence in Covid levels across Scotland.
“With the renewed mandate we have been given by the people of Scotland, I will this week also start to take forward our agenda, starting with our commitments for the first 100 days as we begin the task of securing a fair and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.
“That includes taking forward an NHS recovery plan, taking the first steps to establish a National Care Service, getting additional financial support to businesses and investment to recruit more teachers and classroom assistants.
“The people of Scotland voted for a serious Government for serious times – and with this re-elected SNP administration, in a historic fourth consecutive term in office, that is exactly what they will get.”