Scottish Police given power to serve emergency closure orders to pubs and clubs

22 March 2020, 17:06

Police will be able to force venues to close
Police will be able to force venues to close. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Police Scotland officers will from Sunday have the power to serve emergency closure orders on any licensed premises refusing to close during the coronavirus outbreak.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham praised the "exceptionally high level of compliance" across the country from pubs, clubs, restaurants, gyms and other venues following the advice.

Both the Scottish and UK Governments urged licensed entertainment venues to close on Friday as part of efforts to encourage social distancing and halt the spread of Covid-19.

The Police Scotland deputy criticised the "small number of public houses... intent on defying this instruction" who have reportedly said they will remain open until legally ordered to close.

Mr Graham said: "This is absolutely reckless and endangers not only the lives of customers, but wider communities, in an extremely fast moving and unprecedented situation where both the health and safety of the nation is at stake.

"Therefore, I have obtained further legal advice today and Police Scotland will now instruct officers to serve emergency closure orders on any licensed premises which refuses to comply on the grounds of the threat posed to public safety.

"Officers are now visiting these premises today to have them closed.

"A compulsory closure under the Licensing Scotland Act remains in place for 24 hours but can be repeated as necessary."

He added: "We will also report them to their relevant Licensing Board for further action to be considered.

"We are aware of the proposed legislation in relation to coronavirus, and are carefully considering the implications in this very fast moving situation.

"These are exceptional times and I would again urge everyone to stay safe and listen to the clear advice coming from health experts and government."

Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: "I am fully supportive of the enforcement action taken today which is entirely proportionate to the threat posed to the safety of Scotland's communities.

"I have a clear, positive duty to both protect life and improve the safety and wellbeing of people across Scotland, while supporting the government and health agencies in our fight against this pandemic."

The warnings come as Nicola Sturgeon reiterated measures were put in place to save lives and warned pubs remaining open would "put lives at risk".

While 416 people in Scotland have tested positive - with 10 deaths - the First Minister said this was an underestimate of the true number of people with the virus.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I want to leave people in no doubt about how serious the situation we face is and how vital it is that everyone, businesses and individuals, follow the advice that has been issued.

"Last night a tiny minority of pubs however stayed open. Let me be blunt - in doing so they put lives at risk.

"My message to them is close now. We will have emergency powers in days to force you to close and we will use these powers if we have to.

"But you should not wait for that. You should do the right thing and help us save lives."

Nicola Sturgeon has announced new measures in the fight against coronavirus as the number of people dying with the disease in Scotland reached 10.

The First Minister declared Scotland's islands a no-go zone for visitors, saying ferry companies have been told not to take "non-essential travellers".

Meanwhile, senior pupils who had been planning to return to school despite closures to complete coursework for exams have also been told to stay away.

And 200,000 Scots who could be most seriously affected by Covid-19 - including cancer patients and those who have had organ transplants - are to be given medical guidance which could see them having to shut themselves off from other family members in their own homes.

They will have to "strictly isolate", Ms Sturgeon said, and will be given a support package which could see them get help with getting food and other essential supplies.

The moves were announced as the First Minister said the army had to be called in to help get a coronavirus patient from one of the Scottish islands to the mainland for treatment.

It also came as Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland's chief medical officer, revealed the rate at which the infection is being spread is higher than had been expected.

The latest figures show 416 people in Scotland have tested positive, an increase of 43 from Saturday. The number of deaths has risen from seven to 10.