Mixed messages

Swinney told to ‘lie down’ amid vertical drinking row

John Swinney

John Swinney has been accused of misleading the public (pic: Terry Murden)

Drinkers will be allowed to stand at bars in Scotland after the Scottish government’s latest u-turn on so-called “vertical drinking”.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association said it had received confirmation of the decision following 48 hours of mixed messages from ministers.

Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the SLTA, attended a meeting today with the Scottish Government and other industry groups at which officials provided clarity following an interview involving Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Mr Swinney told a radio programme that standing at a bar without a face mask will not be allowed when restrictions are eased on Monday, although he suggested face masks will not be necessary on nightclub dance floors.

Mr Wilkinson said: “It is absolutely crucial to have this clarified although we are still waiting for the finer detail on this and other questions.

“However, we thank the Scottish Government for their time today and hope that further information is forthcoming before Monday.

“Mr Swinney’s comments were both unhelpful and misinformed.”

A senior figure in the Scottish Beer & Pub Association also said it had been given the green light for vertical drinking.

Conservative Health spokesman, Annie Wells, said: “This is a shambles. Within just a few hours, the SNP Government have u-turned on what John Swinney emphatically told everyone earlier.

“He had to apologise for promoting fake news a few weeks ago and now his officials have been forced to slap down his latest gaffe in humiliating fashion.

“Mixed messaging like this is unacceptable. It makes life even harder for businesses who already have to adapt to new rules.

“John Swinney doesn’t need a vertical drink, he needs a good long horizontal lie down.”

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Earlier, business owners behind some of the country’s top hospitality venues said Scotland needs an industry-specific recovery plan if it has a chance of recuperating to pre-pandemic levels. 

Following the First Minster’s update yesterday, the Scottish Hospitality Group said there is still no clear strategy for the sector.  

UK Government Business Minister Paul Scully launched the UK Hospitality Strategy last month, outlining plans for the three ‘Rs’: reopening, recovery, and resilience, that will support workers back into jobs, focus on training to match the industry’s digital transformation, offer  support for rent management and promote the trade internationally to build back.  

The SHG is calling for a similar plan of action north of the border, that encourages employees back into the sector, creates sustainable long-term jobs, improves city centres, and sets out a strategy for future-proofing after extended closures.  

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