Hospitality industry ‘left in limbo’ over Covid restrictions

Social distancing in public settings and table service will continue in Scotland until at least January 24.

Hospitality industry ‘left in limbo’ over Covid restrictions iStock

The hospitality industry is being “left in limbo”, an industry body has said, as restrictions are due to continue for at least another week.

The First Minister announced on Tuesday that the 500-person cap on outdoor events would be lifted from Monday.

However the requirement for social distancing between groups in public settings and table service in hospitality will continue until at least January 24, Sturgeon said.

The limit of 100 people for standing indoor events and 200 for seated indoor events will also remain.

The curbs were initially also slated to end on Monday.

Speaking in Holyrood on Tuesday, the First Minister said she expected to “confirm further dates” for the easing of restrictions in her update next week, but hospitality businesses have been left reeling at the announcement.

Colin Wilkinson, the managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said: “That the licensed hospitality sector has to wait until next week to find out if existing restrictions will be lifted from January 24 is unacceptable as it leaves business in limbo.

“Of course, we appreciated that the Scottish Government has to consider the health of the nation as well as the economy but more clarity is required.”

Leon Thompson, the executive director of UKHospitality Scotland, said: “Hospitality businesses needed to hear today that restrictions on them would be removed next week.”

He added: “Restrictions, combined with messaging to avoid crowded places and to stay at home as much as possible, torpedoed hospitality’s hopes for a busy festive period.

“Many businesses were left counting the cost when another opportunity to start their recovery was snatched away.

“After today’s statement from the First Minister, businesses and their workforce are left to wait a further week to hear when things might change for them.”

Dr Liz Cameron, the chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses in the hospitality, retail and evening economy, as well as connected sectors, will find it incredibly disappointing that there will be no immediate further lifting of restrictions on them.

“The Scottish Government need to support all businesses by removing legal restrictions that limit capacity, depress profitability and make it difficult for businesses to survive and grow.

“Business will be encouraged, however, that these remaining restrictions may finally be lifted from January 24.

“As we adjust to living with Covid-19 and the threat of new variants, it’s essential that the lifting of restrictions keep pace and that testing and vaccines take priority.

“In the meantime, businesses urgently need the financial support promised to them to be delivered as quickly as possible and 9that0 additional financial support is made available should restrictions remain in place any longer.”

Sturgeon also said there could be an expansion of the vaccine passport scheme which, in the past, ministers stated could include all hospitality businesses.

Mr Wilkinson said any extension would have “a major negative impact” on business, while Mr Thompson said: “Any positivity that could be taken from possible changes on the near horizon was scuppered with further talk of vaccine passports and possible wider application.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said since the start of the pandemic businesses in the country have benefitted from more than £4.4bn in government support, and added: “We are all too aware of the impact that coronavirus has had – and continues to have – on businesses and the Scottish economy, including hospitality.

“As the First Minister has confirmed, we are able to reduce some additional restrictions due to the continued support of the public and business to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

“We will continue to monitor the data closely and hope to confirm further easing of measures later this month.”

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