Tom Kitchin: Top Edinburgh chef felt ‘raw’ and ‘angry’ at news of new coronavirus restrictions

Edinburgh chef and restaurateur Tom Kitchin said he felt “raw” and “emotional” as he heard First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveil new coronavirus restrictions that will impact Scotland’s hospitality industry.

The Michelin-starred chef said he felt the measures, which will see pubs and licensed restaurants in the country’s central belt close for 16 days from Friday, unfairly “picked on” the hospitality industry, and warned that many businesses will simply not survive.

Describing his reaction, Mr Kitchin told BBC Scotland: “Obviously it was really emotional. I wasn't quite expecting the severity of what I heard, and it was really raw yesterday.

“It started off just raw and emotional then it kind of grew into an anger, and this morning I think the head is a little clearer, you know, we understand this very difficult situation.”

Mr Kitchin, who runs four restaurants in the Capital, said the industry has had “fireballs thrown at us one after the other one after the other” since the start of the outbreak, but said the latest news was “a really hard one to take.”

“It's really hard for many many businesses, and it's going to be a challenge,” he said, “but we have to work together, we have to take the positives, we have to deal with it - and we will deal with it.”

Explaining yesterday’s decision, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said one-in-four Covid cases in Scotland is linked to the hospitality sector - a rationale Mr Kitchin said he rejects.

“I think that hospitality has done an incredible job in making it safe,” he argued, adding, “I find it really interesting that the hospitality industry is completely under one umbrella.

Edinburgh chef and restaurateur Tom Kitchen said he felt “raw” and “emotional” as he heard First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveil new coronavirus restrictions that will impact Scotland’s hospitality industry.

“We do feel that we've been picked on in a way,” he said, “but at the same time we understand how challenging it is. We have to protect the NHS and protect lives, so it's difficult. It's really difficult.”

He warned that much of the hospitality industry supply chain might not survive the new restrictions without Government help.

“It's not just about the restaurants, it's about our suppliers - the whole chain.

“Without our industry being opened, our fishmongers and butchers, our growers, our fishermen - everyone that's involved in that - they're not going to survive on doing home deliveries.”

This morning, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the Scottish Government “have had to dig deep into our own resources to find the money to support the hospitality sector through what I accept is going to be a difficult period for them.” (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Kitchin said the Scottish economy relies “110 per cent” on the hospitality sector, adding that it had only survived the pandemic thanks to “incredible local support”.

“If the support isn't there after this and if we keep continuing to do this. I just, I just don't see how it will continue really,” he said.

He also warned that the end of the furlough scheme for workers would be like sending “lambs to the slaughter”, and called on the Scottish Government to help businesses impacted by the new restrictions.

“We all know what happens when that furlough gets taken away. It's not rocket science.

“We need support. We will not survive as an industry.”

The Scottish Government has pledged £40 million of funds to help the sector through the restrictions, which will be in place from Friday until Sunday October 25.

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