Business groups hit out at today’s Scottish Government five-tier local Covid restrictions announcement warning that it will cause “confusion and distress” and would be the last straw for many firms.
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said the new tier system, which comes into force on Monday, has been introduced without taking into consideration the concerns of the hospitality industry and will cause “utter devastation and sleepless nights for industry owners, operators and staff .”
SLTA media spokesman Paul Waterson said: “The situation couldn’t get any worse and we are fielding calls from members who simply can’t take any more of this. They are deeply worried about the future and this will lead to further confusion and distress.
“It will cause utter devastation and sleepless nights for industry owners, operators and staff who will spend this weekend wondering if their businesses are going to be viable, if they are going to still have jobs and, indeed, if they will even still have a business.
“We are relieved that no local authority has been put into Level 4 restrictions but be very clear: even those in Level 1 do not escape hardship as many businesses have not been able to open because it is just not viable.
The future is equally grim for nightclubs and other late-night venues across the country.
“Like everyone else we want our staff, families, friends, neighbours and colleagues to be safe.
“But there must be nuance and realistic limits, not misguided restrictions like these which are extremely unbalanced and do not appear to be borne out of any evidence that we have seen.”
Waterson also asked what constitutes a “main meal” under the Level 2 restrictions. “Licensed premises can only serve alcohol indoors with a main meal – and then only until 8pm,” he said.
“What is a ‘main meal’? We had a similar debate over what is and isn’t a café – again we are being provided with ambiguous detail which will cause confusion.”
The SLTA has previously described current restrictions as “cataclysmic” for the industry and warned that the fallout will be hundreds of business closures and thousands of job losses.
Waterson added: “When the industry reopened after the initial lockdown and with the then restrictive measures in place, it was estimated that two-thirds of hospitality businesses could still be viable, but only just, with one-third of businesses unable to open.
“Now we estimate that two-thirds of hospitality businesses could be mothballed or go under.
Over 50% of jobs in the pub and bar sector could also be lost which will have a particularly deep impact on the employment of young people as over 40% of staff employed are under the age of 25.
“The time has come for proper, grown-up dialogue and we appeal to the First Minister and the Scottish Government to listen to us and help save our industry – it’s that serious.”
The Scottish Tourism Alliance said that that industry had been bracing itself for the tightening of restrictions and the “expected wave of cancellations throughout Scotland’s hospitality and tourism sectors which will happen as a result.”
STA chief executive Marc Crothall said: “As an industry, we have always understood the need to balance public health and the economy, however we are now at a point where many hundreds of businesses simply do not have the income or funding support to remain solvent.
Businesses in Tier 2 areas had hoped for an upturn in business following the slight ease of restrictions as the majority of custom in Tier 2 would have been likely to come from the Central Belt area, however due to the new travel restrictions, this will not be possible.
“It is absolutely critical now that all tourism and hospitality businesses impacted by these restrictions in whatever tier they are in have immediate access to a strengthened package of support from the Scottish Government.”
This would “enable them to meet their overheads and retain what staff they had hoped to keep on their payroll over the coming weeks and beyond to avoid permanent closure and a significant wave of redundancies.”
The STA said that it had requested a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to “discuss the impact of the new restrictions and our renewed call for a robust package of support for the sector.”
There was also a warning that the effect of a travel ban from Tier 3 areas such as Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Inverclyde would hit Glasgow city centre’s Christmas retail trade.
Chief executive Stuart Patrick said: “We must pose two questions to the Scottish Government regarding the ban on people making unnecessary journeys out of all Tier 3 areas.
“Firstly, have they considered the damaging impact this will have on Glasgow city centre retail businesses as Christmas season approaches, and we have no festive shoppers allowed from any other Tier 3 area – when that effectively means the whole of the Glasgow City Region?
“Secondly, what support will be offered to businesses to reflect the severity of this impact and to limit job losses.”