Speaking today (8 December), Scotland’s First Minister said that the Scottish capital will remain at Level 3 lockdown despite recommendations from some health officials that it should be moved down to Level 2.
At Level 3, both indoor and outdoor alcohol sales are banned; and whilst food sales are allowed within certain times, restaurants must adhere to a 6pm curfew.
The level of restrictions of Level 3 has meant many hospitality businesses will be forced to close completely – high-profile examples being fine dining restaurant Aizle, which has closed its doors until further notice; and The Gleneagles Hotel, which announced its closure until February as a result of Perth and Kinross going into Level 3.
Last month, chef and restaurateur Tom Kitchin told BBC Scotland's Debate Night that he had heard of 10 different restaurants going out of businesses in recent days as a result of the Government's restrictions.
Had Edinburgh been moved to Level 2, hospitality places would be allowed to operate for dine in and alcohol sales permitted with a main meal when consumed indoors.
However, all 11 local authority areas in the Level 4 tier - the highest tier in the five-level system - including Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire, Stirling and West Lothian East, and South Ayrshire, will drop down to Level 3.
Sturgeon said that her cabinet had “agonised” over whether to reduce the level of lockdown in Edinburgh, but concluded that it would be unsafe too because of a slight rise in cases in the area.
“In reaching decisions today, we have had to consider the potential overall impact of moving to a lower level of restrictions at the same time as the Christmas period begins in earnest.”
Tom Kitchin says restaurants have closed as a result of restrictions
Christmas a crucial time for business
Responding to Sturgeon’s announcement, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) says that many of Scotland’s pubs, bars and restaurants still face the threat of permanent closure and that being able to trade during the Christmas period would have given the sector a ‘much needed morale boost’.
“While this is a step in the right direction and it is excellent news that Angus, Falkirk and Inverclyde can move from Level 3 into Level 2, it has not gone far enough to help an industry in crisis,” says SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson.
“Many operators even in Levels 2 and 3 areas have already been forced to close down their businesses as it is simply unviable to operate with the current restrictions on the sale of alcohol, capacity levels and the operating times that are currently in place.
“The Scottish Government needed to lessen these to give some kind of hope for the industry as we head into our fourth winter period in January.
“December is a crucially important part of the year for our industry for a number of reasons, but even more so this year as operators struggle to save their businesses.
“The licensed hospitality sector has borne the brunt of heavily restrictive measures this year and the opportunity to be open and doing what we do best over Christmas and New Year would have perhaps given a much-needed morale boost for both operators and staff – and help businesses claw back some of the huge financial losses they have incurred in 2020.”
A bitter sweet announcement
The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) has described the announcement as ‘bitter sweet’ and Edinburgh remaining in tier three as ‘disappointing’.
“Only 42% of Scotland’s pubs and bars will be able open under these restrictions, leaving the majority on life-support,” says SBPA CEO Emma McClarkin.
"The Christmas and New Year period is critically important to businesses in the hospitality sector and the news today that many will be unable to trade as they had hoped and expected will sadly mean some tough business decisions being made over the next few days."
McClarkin has called for parity with the Welsh Government’s financial support package for Scottish hospitality businesses.
“Currently, the average Welsh pub will receive four times more in financial support than the average Scottish pub over the Christmas period. The Cabinet Secretary needs to fix that tomorrow.”
Further economic support for the Scottish hospitality sector will be outlined by the First Minister tomorrow (9 December).