First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs yesterday (15 June) that plans to move all of Scotland to Level 0 - the lowest of the country's five-tier system of Coronavirus restrictions - on 28 June was expected to be pushed back in order to ensure more people could be vaccinated.
It means restrictions on hospitality venues across the country, including operating curfews, are likely to remain in place until the middle of July.
Sturgeon's announcement comes after Prime Minister confirmed on Monday (14 June) that the plan to drop all legal restrictions on social contact in England will no longer go ahead on 21 June as hoped, and will instead be pushed back to Monday 19 July.
A formal decision on what level each area of Scotland will be in will not be taken until next week, but Sturgeon said it was 'reasonable to indicate' that she thought it unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level.
It means the country's mainland council areas will remain in either Level 2 or Level 1, which restricts hospitality to a curfew of either 10:30pm or 11pm respectively, and limits group numbers able to congregate indoors to either six or eight adults from two households.
Many island communities including Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are already in Level 0, which removes all curfew restrictions on hospitality businesses and allows up to 10 people from four households to mix in indoor settings.
Reacting to the First Minister’s comments, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) says it fears that another summer season, which is considered essential for business survival, will be lost.
“The hospitality sector is at breaking point with [this] announcement that the brakes are on for further easing of restrictions,” says Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the SLTA.
“Our pubs and bars have already invested millions to provide a safe environment as we all learn to live with this virus and we need to be able to open without restrictions as soon as we can.
“Currently, we can only operate at around 30% of our capacity, but with increased staff costs to provide table service and fewer tables because of social distancing rules, most business continue to operate at a loss, racking up further debt every time they open the doors.
“For those still unable to open because of their size or the entertainment they provide, such as late opening premises and nightclubs, it is another devastating blow for an abandoned sector crippled by restrictions and with no route map out of the pandemic.”
Wilkinson has called for further financial aid, including an extension to current support schemes such as furlough, to be announced in order to ensure the survival of the licensed hospitality industry.
UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson says word of the delay 'adds to the continuing uncertainty for hospitality businesses'.
“Level 0 is not the end and there will still be significant restrictions on hospitality, so it was good to hear the First Minister refer again to publishing details of life beyond the current strategic framework and the promised review of physical distancing," he says.
"Without this information businesses cannot begin to plan for the future and we look forward to seeing the details as quickly as possible.”