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Restrictions on Scottish hospitality expected to ease from late April

23 February 2021 by
Restrictions on Scottish hospitality expected to ease from late April

Hospitality in Scotland is expected to start to be able to reopen from the last week of April, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

She said the country will return to levelled restrictions, with a "substantial reopening" of the economy beginning on 26 April "if the data allows".

This will include hospitality, non-essential retail and services like hairdressers and gyms.

There will be a "progressive easing" of rules in the prior weeks which could see the ‘stay at home' message lifted from 5 April alongside some restrictions on retail and click and collect.

It is hoped that from the end of April, areas under level four rules will be able to move back to level three, which means hospitality can open but with a 6pm curfew and a ban on serving alcohol.

Hotels in level three can take bookings from local visitors or for work-related use.

Further detail on the sequencing of reopening will be set out in a document published mid-March.

But the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) said a return to the level system would make it "impossible" for breweries to trade with any pubs in level three.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) warned a late spring reopening "will sadly be too late for many and for those who do survive there remain serious challenges ahead".

Paul Waterson of the SLTA said: "While it is encouraging that our sector can hopefully reopen from the end of April, we are concerned that a return to the previous tiered system will lead many operators to decide that such restrictive reopening conditions are simply not worth the time, effort and money involved."

Sturgeon said businesses that reopen will continue to receive grants from the Strategic Framework Business Fund for at least four weeks as they adjust.

Tapered support for businesses that still face restrictions and reduced demand as they are allowed to reopen is also being considered.

Sturgeon said the roadmap was "deliberately cautious", adding: "Taking the brakes off too quickly will allow the virus to get ahead of us again.

"I appreciate this is a frustrating message but it is an essential one."

Scottish Hospitality Group spokesperson and owner of the Townhead hotel in Lockerbie expressed concerns that the industry has been offered the promise of better days to come without the detail or confidence to plan for them.

He said: "It's extremely frustrating for operators in Scotland to be looking at their counterparts in England who are finally able to start preparing for a return to normality with greater certainty. And if the government's plan is to kick proper decisions down the road because of the election then that is unacceptable to everyone in our sector.

"The old levels system was inherently flawed and the Scottish Government must listen to industry and develop an approach that allows businesses to trade viably by permitting hospitality firms in Levels 2 and 3 to trade to at least 10 pm, with all due safety measures."

Mike Grieve, managing director of Sub Club in Glasgow and chair of the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) Scotland, agreed the lack of detail in the statement was "highly disappointing" and said it was vital that significant financial support continues for affected businesses until all trading restrictions are removed.

UKHospitality Scotland executive director Willie Macleod also said much more detail was needed. "We will need details of the type of restrictions businesses will be under and the timeframe for easing them," he said.

"It is crucial that businesses remain supported in the run-up to reopening and beyond. The Scottish Government has already extended the business rates holiday, and this is welcome; but we need much more than this and the grants available under the Temporary Closure and Business Restrictions schemes are, quite simply, inadequate for the job. These schemes must urgently be reviewed to provide businesses with realistic funds to enable them to survive this prolonged period without any revenue. The UK government must use next month's Budget to extend the VAT cut, extend furlough and deliver a sector-specific package of support with consequential funding to the Scottish government to ensure businesses survive the coming months."

Yesterday Boris Johnson announced that outdoor hospitality in England will reopen from 12 April at the earliest, with indoor dining likely to return from 17 May. The aim is for all restrictions to lift on 21 June.

Image: Shutterstock

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