Plans to lift remaining Covid restrictions in Scotland could be sped up 'safely', declare Tories
The Scottish Conservatives have insisted plans to lift the remaining restrictions in Scotland could be speeded up “safely”, with party leader Douglas Ross saying dozens of businesses backed their calls for faster reopening.
Mr Ross hit out at what he branded the SNP’s “anti-business approach” during a visit to a bar in Edinburgh on Monday morning.
The stance came as political leaders focused on their plans to help businesses recover from coronavirus as restrictions were eased across Scotland.
Non-essential retail re-opened for business on Monday after the latest lockdown, with bars, restaurants and cafes also getting up and running again – although they still have some restrictions in place.
The Tories have said more than 50 businesses have already backed their call for restrictions to be eased at a faster pace, arguing that bars and restaurants should be able to sell alcohol indoors from today.
Mr Ross said: “It’s fantastic to see businesses finally start to reopen after the incredibly difficult year they’ve battled through.
“The success of Scotland and the UK’s vaccine scheme means we can afford to safely speed up the easing of restrictions, and dozens of businesses have backed our calls to bring forward those reopening dates.
“But we can’t afford any more of the SNP’s anti-business approach. It is stifling Scotland’s economy and costing jobs.”
Mr Ross also claimed the “uncertainty” of a second independence referendum would impact on firms, saying: “Just as businesses start to get back on their feet, the SNP want to cut them off at the knees and put jobs at risk.”
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, however, insisted that “Scotland cannot afford for our recovery to be determined by Westminster”, as she called on people to “elect a first minister and a government which is absolutely focused on Scotland’s recovery, and ensure that Scotland’s recovery is in Scotland’s hands”.
The row over the speed at which lockdown should be lifted came as Ms Sturgeon said this latest relaxation of the rules was “another big step forward in our recovery from the pandemic”.
She stressed: “After a long winter for all of us, I know that people across Scotland are keen to get out there and support their local businesses as they reopen – and I would encourage them to do so, safely.”
The First Minister highlighted SNP plans for a £25 million tourism recovery fund, hailing the sector as being “one of Scotland’s crown jewels”.
But she said it was also “one of the sectors hardest-hit by Covid-19”, adding the £25m fund would help people on low incomes or those who have caring responsibilities enjoy short breaks in Scotland.
Labour has also set out its plans to help the tourism sector, with its Great Scottish Staycation scheme, which would allow people to have a third night free of charge in holiday accommodation.
The initiative would operate in the off-peak season, contributing £50 per person to the cost of a third night’s accommodation, capped at a maximum of £100 per room.
To help high street stores, Labour is also proposing to give every adult a £75 pre-paid card, to spend in non-food businesses – with the scheme stipulating the the money could not be spent online.