A set of recommendations from organisations representing Scotland's hospitality sector has been submitted to the Scottish government urging ministers to mirror the reopening plans for England as closely as possible.
The Scottish Hospitality Group, UKHospitality (UKH) Scotland, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) and the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) have suggested a series of ‘tweaks' to the levelled restrictions that would allow the sector to meet both public health and economy objectives as strict Covid measures remain in place, saving more than 60,000 jobs and contributing more than £1.2b to the economy.
While Scotland's Level 3 currently involves the closure of hospitality at 6pm with no alcohol served, the trade bodies' ‘tweaked' restrictions would see hospitality closed at 10.30pm instead and alcohol served only with a meal indoors, with alcohol permitted and a closing time of 11.30pm outdoors. This is if the government doesn't move to a more simplified reopening strategy, such as in England where restrictions such as a curfew and the service of alcohol only with a meal have been removed.
Research from economic consultancy BiGGAR Economics said such a pragmatic approach is essential if catastrophic business failure across the sector are to be avoided. BiGGAR found that under the current Level 3 restrictions, 54% of hospitality businesses could operate, generating a turnover of £269m and supporting 21,900 jobs. If government was to open with the proposed Level 3 industry change, 73% of businesses could operate, generating a turnover of £927m and supporting 53,300 jobs.
Graeme Blackett, director of BiGGAR Economics, said: "Adjustments to the restrictions could get thousands of people back to work and allow the sector to generate turnover and contribute significantly to the public finances in the coming weeks and months."
BiGGAR Economics' study also found that under the newly proposed Level 2 changes, 91% of businesses could operate, which would generate a turnover of £1.2b and support 68,000 jobs. This is compared to current Level 2 restrictions in which only 73% of business could operate, generating a turnover of £634m and supporting only 34,900 jobs.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said he hoped the research would "give the Scottish government the push to readdress the current levels system" which he said has "unfairly targeted our industry".
Chief executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association Emma McClarkin said the sector could not afford to delay the recovery and that aligning with reopening plans in England, where outdoor hospitality is due to open from 12 April and indoor hospitality and hotels from 17 May, would help ensure businesses will not be at a competitive disadvantage.
Willie Macleod, executive director, Scotland for UKH, said: "UKH urges the Scottish government to agree a plan for reopening that will remove any risk of vulnerable businesses failing at the eleventh hour. The plan for reopening Scotland's economy has to acknowledge that hotels, bars and restaurants are still at severe risk and must place the survival of our sector, which will be integral to the economic recovery of the country, at its heart."
Mike Grieve, chairperson of NTIA Scotland added: "We strongly urge the first minister to act on the proposed revised levels as outlined in the hospitality joint association letter, and to engage in discussions with the group to find solutions appropriate to the needs of all hospitality businesses as a matter of urgency."
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said that by tweaking the restrictions across the levels, the Scottish government has the opportunity to "throw a lifeline to the industry and those that it employs".