Industry bodies representing Scotland’s hospitality sector have raised concerns over the impact of extending rules on face coverings in the country.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday announced that the requirement to wear face coverings will remain for at least a further two weeks.
The requirement had been due to expire next week on Monday, March 21, but it will instead now be reviewed by ministers before the Easter holidays.
It comes amidst an increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Scotland.
However, the decision has been criticised by organisations representing businesses including pubs, night clubs and restaurants.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) claimed that the decision means Scottish hospitality will be “held back” from the rest of the UK in the return to normality.
And they urged the First Minister to confirm that the face mask requirement will be lifted no later than the first week of April.
“The NTIA welcomes today’s confirmation that legal requirements for businesses to collect customer details will end from March 21,” they said in a statement.
“However, it is disappointing that Scotland is choosing to maintain mandatory face masks for several weeks longer while all other nations of the UK have ended this requirement in hospitality settings.
“Once again Scottish hospitality will be held back from the rest of the UK in our long awaited return to normality, with little or no evidence supporting such a decision, and much to the frustration of hard pressed businesses and the general public.
“It is now imperative that the First Minister confirms there will be no more delays, that the remaining restriction will be lifted no later than the first week of April, and that moving forward the Scottish public will be trusted to take sensible and appropriate precautions based on their own personal evaluation of risk.”
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association insisted that it is “unfair” for staff having to tell customers they cannot enter premises if they are not wearing a face mask.
“All this does is put yet more pressure on licensed hospitality businesses to police this requirement,” said Paul Waterson, SLTA media spokesperson of the decision set out by Sturgeon.
“It’s hugely unfair that staff should have to tell customers they cannot enter their premises unless they are wearing a face covering.
“In most cases, customers understand that the law in Scotland is different and will either comply by wearing a mask or walk away.
“However, we are aware of instances whereby customers simply don’t accept the law and they take out their frustration on staff. That is not acceptable.”
Waterson suggested that the messaging on restrictions in Scotland is also “confusing” for visitors from England.
He continued: “While the advice going forward – regardless of the law – will be to continue wearing a face covering in crowded places with people asked to weigh up their own personal responsibility, it is evident that many people are jaded and simply not bothering.
“You only have to go into a supermarket to observe that fewer people are wearing masks.
“The licensed hospitality sector is at a stage now where business is picking up – this makes the messaging confusing for visitors from England who will support our hospitality businesses.
“Our sector still has many ongoing issues to overcome and there is an onus on the Scottish Government to support our industry which is key to the economy and jobs. We need them to promote confidence and positivity.”