The potential reopening of Scottish hospitality businesses at the end of April, several weeks after English operators, was described as “extremely frustrating” by a trade group.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon set out her roadmap for the easing of lockdown restrictions across Scotland yesterday (23 February).

The first stage of easing sees a phased reopening of schools across the country, before a lifting of stay-home orders and finally the reopening of non-essential retail and hospitality businesses, which could be from the last week in April if certain conditions are met.

Sturgeon said: “I know how hard current restrictions are after 11 long months of this pandemic, however they are working and we can now see our way out of them. We are in a far better position now than at the start of January and these measures are initial steps on a slow, but hopefully steady, route back to much greater normality.

“Our intent remains to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible.”

In contrast, under the plan for the easing of restrictions in England, prime minister Boris Johnson said bars and pubs in England could reopen on 12 April subject to meeting four tests on vaccines, infection rates and new coronavirus variants.

In response, trade body the Scottish Hospitality Group said it would be “extremely frustrating for operators in Scotland” to see their counterparts in England preparing to reopen their businesses, while they are unable to prepare “for a return to normality”.

Spokesperson Stephen Montgomery said: “While the measures today may seem like a small step in the right direction we’re concerned that our industry has been offered the promise of better days to come without the detail or confidence to plan for them.

“We’ve endured repeated lockdowns and our worst festive trading ever. We pay into a furlough scheme that costs us more than it saves, we’re racking up huge amounts of debt, and we’ve already paid out a fortune to make our premises Covid-compliant only to be shut down.

“All the indicators should be giving us cause for hope and optimism, yet the Scottish Government seems hell-bent on following a precautionary approach that’s not backed up by evidence.”

Four weeks’ support 

The Scottish government also announced that financial support available for businesses would continue to be available as the country emerges from lockdown.

Under updated measures, the Strategic Framework Business Fund will be available to businesses for an additional month after restrictions ease.

However, the SHG said the measures were insufficient for the survival of the industry.

Montgomery added: “The first minister said support would continue for a further four weeks after businesses reopen, with some help continuing until June. Given all that we, our staff and suppliers have been through, the government aid must continue into next year and can not be pulled from our sector if we are to survive.”
Via The Spirits Business
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