Holyrood holds off on confirming Scottish hospitality sector reopening date

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Holyrood holds off on confirming Scottish hospitality sector reopening date Coronavirus 15 July

Related tags: Scottish government, Coronavirus

The Scottish Government has reaffirmed its intention to allow the country's hospitality sector to restart in mid-July, but has pushed back any official announcement until the beginning of next month.

As the country moved into the second phase of its "route map" for restarting the country following the Coronavirus lockdown, reopening guidance for the tourism and hospitality sectors has been published with an indicative date of 15 July. 

The date was first mooted earlier this month by Scottish Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing​, who told the country's tourist bodies at the time that they should prepare for reopening from 15 July onwards 

However, in a speech yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a date for reopening pubs and restaurants would not be determined until July 2 at the earliest.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament yesterday (18 June) afternoon, Sturgeon said: "There is emerging evidence that places like pubs, restaurants and gyms can be hotspots for transmission, so it is really important we better understand this evidence and what further mitigation might be necessary to protect people in such spaces before we permit them to reopen.

"I appreciate this will be hard for the hospitality industry. I want to give an assurance to businesses in that sector that we will continue to support preparations for reopening - for example by encouraging local authorities to facilitate the use of open outdoor spaces which pubs and restaurants can use for additional space.

"I expect to have this further scientific advice in two weeks and I will set out then, hopefully on or around 2 July, whether outdoor hospitality can re-open during phase 2 - which I hope will be the case - or if further mitigations are required ahead of phase 3."

In her statement, the First Minister also confirmed that social distancing measures will be subject to 'rigorous research', with an announcement on any change from the current two metre parameter unlikely for another two weeks.

Trade body UKHospitality said it welcomed the publication of the guidance, which also provides businesses with a risk assessment, operational guide and checklist to help them navigate the relaunch.

However, it also signalled its disappointment that the opening of outdoor areas for pubs and restaurants will not be confirmed until the beginning of next month. 

“It is heartening to have the Scottish Government’s guidance, and the clarity they bring for businesses," says Willie Macleod, UKHospitality executive director for Scotland. 

"They should provide an end to many of the uncertainties which have persisted over recent weeks for businesses that have been hit very hard by this crisis, and allow planning to get underway for re-opening.

“The importance of the hospitality sector to Scotland’s economy cannot be denied. Hospitality is the mainstay of the country’s tourism industry and plays a vital role socially as well as economically. Re-opening will be critical in helping the country get back up and running.

“We are naturally very pleased that the Scottish Government has also included a link to UKHospitality’s guidelines which are available to the entire sector.

“Even with the greater certainty that the re-opening guidance now provides, we should not forget that businesses have been hit very hard and the sector remains in a fragile state. We must have continued sector-specific support from both the UK and Scottish Governments. 

"We are pleased to see that social distancing measures will be reviewed also. Reducing the minimum distance required, if it is safe to do so, would be a huge bonus for businesses as they look to reopen.”

Related topics: Business

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