Scottish hospitality bosses launch legal bid against lockdown restrictions

22 October 2020, 19:44

Pubs, restaurants and retailers say they face a catastrophic winter
Pubs, restaurants and retailers say they face a catastrophic winter. Picture: PA

Five Scottish hospitality industry bodies have launched legal action against restrictions imposed by the Scottish Government, as more measures are expected to be announced tomorrow.

The move comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that measures on the sector due to end on Monday will be extended for a further seven days.

These include the closure of licensed premises in the central belt and the curbing of alcohol sales indoors in other parts of the country.

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to face further criticism as she sets out a five-tier strategy to combat the virus - with the highest level reportedly similar to full lockdown seen in March.

Pubs, restaurants and retailers say they face a catastrophic winter amid predictions that two-thirds of hospitality firms could close.

Read more: Rishi Sunak unveils billions of pounds of support for businesses in Tier 2 areas

A joint pre-action letter has now been sent to the Scottish Government by the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, UKHospitality (Scotland), the Scottish Hospitality Group and the Night Time Industries Association Scotland.

Paul Waterson, group spokesman, said: "We understand and entirely support the goal of suppressing the virus, but our sector is at breaking point.

"Despite having more mitigation measures than other sectors and the vast majority of operators going above and beyond in ensuring customer safety, our sector has been repeatedly targeted without consultation and without the evidence.

"Anecdotal evidence is not the way to go about making Government decisions and the sector should not be used as a balance to uncontrollable risks in other far less regulated and unmonitored sectors.

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"The economic support offered to premises doesn't come close to compensating the businesses and means jobs are being lost and livelihoods ruined.

"Any measures must be proportionate and be backed up by evidence, we do not believe that is the case here.

"The industry simply cannot endure the extension of the current restriction, further restrictive measures expected from the 2nd of November, or to get into a stop-start situation.

"We are now facing the end of our industry as we know it. The battle is now on to save the hospitality sector."

The pre-action letter requests a response to legal challenges by 4pm on Wednesday, otherwise the parties say they will ask the courts for a judicial review.

Restrictions are now due to last until a new tiered system is put in place by the Scottish Government on November 2, which will impose measures based on the prevalence of coronavirus in the local area.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We are using the powers we have to help businesses, offering support which now exceeds £2.3 billion, including 100% rates relief for pubs and restaurants for the year, and we will extend financial support available to businesses who must stay closed or continue to restrict their trading to cover the additional week of restrictions.

"We are confident the temporary restrictions are essential and proportionate to the risk posed by coronavirus if we are to prevent a return to the dangerous level of infections experienced earlier this year.

"We will respond to the letter in due course."

The news as national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said "people should get their digital Christmas ready".

He said: "Christmas is not going to be normal, there is absolutely no question about that.

"We're not going to have large family groupings with multiple families around, that is fiction for this year.

"I am hopeful, if we can get the numbers down to a certain level, we may be able to get some form of normality."

The Government's chief scientific adviser has not ruled out a "digital Christmas" in England due to social restrictions that "will need to be in place for a while".

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Sir Patrick Vallance told a Downing Street press conference that the prospect of families spending Christmas together depended on whether coronavirus cases could be driven down over the coming weeks.

Tier 2 and 3 restrictions would ban families from different households or support bubbles from mixing indoors on Christmas Day, while people living in Tier 1 areas would not be able to meet in groups of more than six people from outside their household.