Hospitality chiefs say industry is being 'left in limbo', as they urge Nicola Sturgeon for more clarity over easing of Covid restrictions

The hospitality industry is being "left in limbo", an industry body has said, as restrictions are due to continue for at least another week.

By Craig Paton
Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 7:26 am

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that the 500-person cap on outdoor events would be lifted from Monday.

However, the requirement for social distancing between groups in public settings and table service in hospitality will continue until at least January 24, Ms Sturgeon said.

The limit of 100 people for standing indoor events and 200 for seated indoor events will also remain.

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The curbs were initially slated to end on Monday.

The First Minister said she expected to "confirm further dates" for the easing of restrictions in her update next week, but hospitality businesses have been left reeling at the announcement.

Colin Wilkinson, the managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said: "That the licensed hospitality sector has to wait until next week to find out if existing restrictions will be lifted from January 24 is unacceptable as it leaves business in limbo.

"Of course, we appreciated that the Scottish Government has to consider the health of the nation as well as the economy but more clarity is required."

Hospitality bosses have asked Nicola Sturgeon for more clarity over Covid restrictions that affect their trading. Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

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Leon Thompson, the executive director of UKHospitality Scotland, said: "Hospitality businesses needed to hear today that restrictions on them would be removed next week."

He added: "Restrictions, combined with messaging to avoid crowded places and to stay at home as much as possible, torpedoed hospitality's hopes for a busy festive period.

"Many businesses were left counting the cost when another opportunity to start their recovery was snatched away.

"After today's statement from the First Minister, businesses and their workforce are left to wait a further week to hear when things might change for them."

Dr Liz Cameron, the chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "Businesses in the hospitality, retail and evening economy, as well as connected sectors, will find it incredibly disappointing that there will be no immediate further lifting of restrictions on them.

"The Scottish Government need to support all businesses by removing legal restrictions that limit capacity, depress profitability and make it difficult for businesses to survive and grow.

"Business will be encouraged, however, that these remaining restrictions may finally be lifted from January 24.

"In the meantime, businesses urgently need the financial support promised to them to be delivered as quickly as possible and that additional financial support is made available should restrictions remain in place any longer."

Ms Sturgeon also said there could be an expansion of the vaccine passport scheme which, in the past, ministers stated could include all hospitality businesses.

Mr Wilkinson said any extension would have "a major negative impact" on business.

A Scottish Government spokesman said since the start of the pandemic businesses in the country have benefited from more than £4.4bn in government support, and added: "We are all too aware of the impact that Coronavirus has had - and continues to have - on businesses and the Scottish economy, including hospitality.

"As the First Minister has confirmed, we are able to reduce some additional restrictions due to the continued support of the public and business to help reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

"We will continue to monitor the data closely and hope to confirm further easing of measures later this month."

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