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The First Minister’s announcement on a curfew for pubs and restaurants in Scotland has received a mixed response from business owners who all share a concern for any long term damage that the restrictions may bring.
On Tuesday afternoon Nicola Sturgeon announced that from Friday (today) onward all pubs and restaurants will have to shut by 10pm in an effort aimed at curtailing the spread of coronavirus which has seen an increase in infection rates in recent weeks.
Household visits have also been banned from Friday but came into immediate effect on Wednesday – and this may also have a detrimental effect on tourist numbers, hospitality and other tourism related businesses.
Addressing parliament, the First Minister described having to take the decision ‘to find a balance between action to suppress the virus and the protection of people’s jobs and livelihoods.’
While most businesses acknowledge the need to curtail the virus, many have expressed concern about future survival, staff retention and financial viability for an already beleaguered industry.
Tracy Black, Confederation of British Industry, Scotland Director, who represent 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors, said: ‘A second national lockdown would be devastating for Scotland’s economy, so it’s only right that the First Minister has prioritised bringing infections under control.
‘But there can be no escaping the fact that earlier closing times for Scotland’s pubs, cafes and restaurants will be a bitter pill for a sector already hugely impacted by the crisis. With prolonged remote working also looking likely, there will undoubtedly be a cost to our city centre economies.
‘There must now be a new plan to support businesses this autumn. This should start with a successor to the Job Retention Scheme and allowing cash-strapped businesses to defer their VAT payments from the last quarter – a no-brainer given this latest blow to our economy.
‘The Scottish and UK governments must work together to do everything they can to protect viable firms and jobs in the coming weeks and months.’
The Scottish Hospitality Group, who represented more than 50 venues in Glasgow, Edinburgh and other locations in Scotland, described the decision as ‘damaging’ saying: ‘With 90,000 Scottish jobs at risk we are heading towards a cliff edge and time is running out. We have been speaking with government and that will be ongoing but there is only a matter of months before the restrictions on our industry will have irreparable long-term damage on our sector.’
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said: ‘The First Minister’s announcement that bars, pubs and restaurants will close at 10pm from Friday will serve as a significant blow to many hundreds of businesses across Scotland who have worked hard to ensure compliance with government guidance to protect their staff, customers and to offer confidence that all possible measures have been taken to protect these groups.
‘Sadly, this is likely to be the last straw for many businesses which were only just managing to break even; the impact that this new rule will have on restaurants in particular in terms of restricting a second seating in the evening will result in a substantial loss of revenue, as indeed it will in other areas of hospitality.
‘I have said throughout this crisis that our industry must continue to do the right thing and comply with every measure imposed on us for the good of all and to bring the virus under control. We welcome the announcement of additional inspection measures and enforcement to identify non-compliance.
‘The evidence we have seen to date shows that incidences of the virus in hospitality businesses account for only a very small percentage of overall cases and I would therefore be hopeful that the further evidence we will gather in the coming days and weeks will feed into the review of this particular measure.
‘There will be only one way forward for Scotland’s tourism industry in light of today’s announcement; the immediate survival and future sustainability of the industry is now dependent on a tailored furlough package for the sector, a permanent reduction in VAT to 5 per cent beyond 2021, a business rates holiday until the end of March 2022 for all tourism businesses and a recapitalisation of borrowing – a mechanism for creating business liquidity for businesses which are quite simply running out of cash.
‘The STA is grateful for the Cabinet Secretary’s support and understanding of the huge challenges being faced currently by our tourism industry which Mr Ewing recognised and acknowledged at the STA Council meeting and we will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government and policy makers over the coming weeks.’
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivers her address, outlining news curbs on hospitality and household visiting. Photograph: www.gov.scot/news/ No_B39hospitality01