Night Time Industries Association launches legal action against Scottish Government over Covid restrictions

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) Scotland is set to commence legal action against the Scottish Government, with a judicial review challenging the validity of all legal restrictions currently being imposed upon hospitality and night time economy businesses.

In a statement, the industry body reiterated previously-made points that Scotland’s hospitality sector in general – and the late-night sector in particular – has been driven to the edge of insolvency by restrictions in place since the start of the pandemic.

“Scottish Government support has been wholly inadequate to compensate for operating losses and a majority of businesses have now incurred unsustainable debt as a result,” it read, noting that around 39,000 jobs are now at risk.

The NTIA Scotland said that emergency restrictions on opening, capacity, activities and operating hours make thousands of businesses commercially unviable.

Fixed costs such as rent, insurance and staff furlough costs have far exceeded the income coming in from revenue and grants, resulting in the typical small business owner in the sector incurring around £150,000 in Covid-related debt per premises, which represents many years’ worth of normal profits.

“We accept that restrictions were initially necessary in the interests of public health, and indeed we not only fully supported previous measures taken, but also actively promoted the government’s public health messages via social media channels and to our customer base,” the NTIA Scotland stated.

“However, thanks to the heroic efforts of our NHS workers, vaccine researchers and scientists, and the immensely successful roll-out of the vaccine, Covid-19 no longer presents the threat to public health that it did even a few short months ago,” it added.

It is therefore the position of the NTIA Scotland that the restrictions imposed on hospitality businesses by Scottish Government are no longer justifiable or proportionate and any continued application of such emergency restrictions would be in breach of Article 1 of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The group has retained the services of TLT Solicitors and the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop QC, to argue its case in court at the earliest practical opportunity.

Mike Grieve, managing director Sub Club and chair of NTIA Scotland, said: “In light of the continued failure of the Scottish Government to address or even acknowledge the plight of Scotland’s culturally vital and economically significant nightclub sector, NTIA Scotland has reached the conclusion that there is no alternative but to challenge the continued enforced closure in the Court of Session.

“As things stand, we have no ability to trade, no indicative date for reopening, no ongoing funding, and no prospect of keeping our staff in employment, meanwhile the oft quoted ‘scientific data’ backing the regular assertion from Scottish Government that hospitality settings are a significant factor in Covid transmission, has yet to be produced.

“It is completely wrong to decimate an industry based on untested presumptions.”

Grieve added: “It’s highly ironic that Dundee’s world class V&A gallery is reopening this weekend with an exhibition celebrating the cultural significance of nightclubs around the world over the past five decades, paying particular attention to the importance of Scottish nightlife through the years, while our own government seems intent on allowing the very institutions which underpin this vibrant youth culture to wither away.”

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