Covid Scotland: Full capacity events will return in Scotland ‘as soon as possible’, says Angus Robertson

Scotland’s cultural secretary has pledged that full capacity events will be allowed to return “as soon as possible” once the country emerges from the “acute” phase of the Omicron variant.
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Angus Robertson has insisted “there will not be a minute wasted” to allow venues and events to reboot on a viable basis when the public health picture improves.

He said the Scottish Government would consider “each and every form of mitigation” to allow recovery of the culture sector to take place.

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This includes the possible expansion of the scheme, which required people to show proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test to gain access to some venues and events in Scotland in recent months.

Scottish culture secretary Angus Robertson. Picture: Lisa FergusonScottish culture secretary Angus Robertson. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Scottish culture secretary Angus Robertson. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Mr Roberson said the Scottish Government fully understood the need for audiences to reach a certain size for many venues to ensure “economic viability”.

He was speaking the day after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “very” hopeful the existing curbs on live events, which took effect on Boxing Day, would not have to go beyond January 17.

Mr Robertson, who insisted the government would “move decisively” to allow events to resume, said he was hopeful much of Scotland’s calendar of cultural events would be able to take place “as planned”.

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But he would not be pressed on the prospects for events due to be held in Scotland over the next few weeks.

Mr Robertson said: “We take our lead in Government from the scientific advice we're given. I cannot second guess what that is going to be.

“We really know how difficult and challenging things are. We're very aware of that.

“I understand people wish to see certainty and defined timescales. We can’t do that until we find ourseleves in improved circumstances and see the advice at that stage.

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"There will not be a minute wasted beyond the point which we get the advice that is is safe to move into a new phase, where things can reopen.

"Just as we’ve moved decisively to provide financially support, we will move decisively when we can to make sure we can see the quickest and safest return as soon as possible.

“I understand how quickly people want that to happen, but I’ve yet to meet anybody in the culture sector who is asking for public health measures to be unilaterally lifted.”

Under the current curbs, indoor standing events are capped at just 100, with only 200 people allowed at all-seater shows. Venues also have to enforce one-metre distancing on audiences.

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Mr Robertson added: “We’re trying to navigate a difficult route between trying to stay safe, remaining viable and getting the financial measures in place to do both of those things.

“We need to look at all options to consider the route back to the new normality we will have as we get beyond this acute phase of the Omicron variant.

"I can’t second guess what the advice will be at that stage, but we have some mitigations that we didn't at the start of the pandemic. We need to be open to how we can use those as effectively as we possibly can.

“We will consider each and every potential form of mitigation to allow that recovery to take place.

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"We are not in a position to do that at the present time and I think people understand that.

"But they also need to know we will be prepared to look at all different options to chart a way back.”

Mr Robertson said the government fully understood the “challenges” over audience sizes and the economic viability of events.

He added: “These are exactly the kind of issues that will be part of our consideration.

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"People in the cultural and arts community know we take that seriously because we’re regularly speaking with them and listening to their needs, concerns and expectations.

“We want to deliver as quickly as we possibly can. The scale of commitment we’ve given financially is emblematic of the scale of the importance that we give to the culture and arts sector.

"I hope that we will see as much of the 2022 cultural calendar as possible taking place as planned. But I think all reasonable people, including ticket-holders, will understand that we are having to follow public health advice.”