Covid: Underbelly 'incredibly saddened' by cancellation of Edinburgh Hogmanay as new hospitality restrictions are announced by Nicola Sturgeon

The organisers of Edinburgh’s iconic Hogmanay celebration have said they are “incredibly sad” over having to cancel following Nicola Sturgeon enforcing greater restrictions on the hospitality industry in Scotland from Boxing Day.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, the First Minister announced that from December 26 restrictions on numbers at outdoor and indoor events will be implemented for a period of three weeks to try to control the spread of the Omicron variant – meaning the Capital’s new year celebration will have to be cancelled.

Underbelly Co-Directors, Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, said: “We are incredibly sad to announce the cancellation of the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme for 2021 following new restrictions announced by the Scottish Government today.

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"After such a tough year, we were looking forward to helping bring people back together safely at Edinburgh’s iconic Hogmanay celebrations.”

Council Leader Adam McVey said that cancelling is the right decision as the priority must be to protect Edinburgh residents.

He said: “I know it will be hugely disappointing for people, particularly young people who were planning to attend these events.

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“Given the spread of this variant, reflected in the rising infection numbers, we need to avoid any additional burden on our health and emergency services.”

Chief Superintendent Phil Davison, Gold Commander for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay policing operation agreed that cancelling the events – including the Torchlight Procession, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Party at the Bells and the Loony Dook – was the appropriate decision given the circumstances.

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Covid: Underbelly 'incredibly sadden' by cancellation of Edinburgh Hogmanay as new hospitality restrictions are announced by Nicola Sturgeon (Picture credit: Ian Georgeson/Edinburgh's Hogmanay via AP Images)

“This decision was not taken by Police Scotland, but we fully support the actions taken by the event organisers and the local authority,” he said.

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“We would ask that those who had been planning to attend these events do not make their way to the city centre and instead celebrate the New Year in line with the existing guidelines.”

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Rules which will be imposed from December 26 include the reintroduction of table service at venues serving alcohol and a limit of 100 people at indoor standing events, and a 200 person limit at indoor seated events.

Edinburgh Hogmanay Torchlight Procession is among events cancelled amid the threat of the Omicron variant. (Picture credit: Ian Georgeson)
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Outdoor events will be limited to 500 people seated or standing, and physical distancing will be required at all events which go ahead within these limits.

As a result, the official Edinburgh Hogmanay celebration is not the only event facing cancellation.

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WhyNot nightclub on George Street is just one venue which has announced its ticketed event scheduled to take place on December 31 will be rescheduled.

The company has said the new restrictions are devastating and mean they will have to close for at least three weeks.

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Andrew McRae, Scotland’s policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said that the news measures will make trading “drastically more difficult” for businesses in Scotland.

He said: “The social distancing restrictions will mean shops and hospitality firms can serve fewer customers. And the changes to events, such as sports matches and Hogmanay celebrations, will have a knock-on impact on local economies.

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“After a disappointing festive trading period, these moves will heap pressure on local firms and the self-employed.

"The same group of businesses that took the greatest hit earlier in the crisis now face another gruelling winter and spring.

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"These operators now face tough decisions about whether they open their doors with restrictions in place or stop trading until they’re lifted.”

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