MORE than 3000 people have signed a petition calling for Edinburgh Zoo to be allowed to reopen immediately.
The zoo said last week it would be ready to open at the end of June and warned remaining closed during the summer could be financially disastrous.
Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, saying 300 jobs could be at stake.
Nicola Sturgeon said she had “nothing but sympathy” for the zoo and other organisations in the same position, but added decisions could not be based on individual circumstances.
And she rejected the comparison with the UK Government’s decision to allow zoos in England to reopen from Monday next week.
She said: “Each government has to take these decisions based on its own advice and its own judgements, but it’s only a few weeks ago I was being asked why weren’t we following a similar timetable to England on school reopening and yet now we see the reversal of that timetable.”
However, just a few hours later Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing announced a provisional date of July 15 for the tourism sector to reopen.
And the Scottish Government confirmed that included zoos as well as hotels, bars and restaurants.
Mr Cole-Hamilton, who launched the petition for the immediate opening of the zoo, said July 15 was not soon enough.
“It’s a month later than the zoos in England,” he said. “And Edinburgh Zoo is losing £640,000 every month it’s shut.
“There is no scientific basis under which we could keep it shut. It’s as safe as 18 holes on the golf course, so we should look at it that way and open it immediately.”
David Field, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs the zoo, said: “We will continue talking with the Scottish Government about our plans to reopen.”
He said the zoo had large outdoor spaces and could reopen safely by introducing social distancing, closing indoor areas, limiting visitor numbers and selling tickets online with time slots.
“We have already had to borrow £5 million because almost all our income comes from our visitors, which will have a significant impact on our parks and conservation activities.”