Glasgow hospitality to be 'devastated' by lockdown continuation

Hospitality groups have warned of “devastation” to their industry caused by the extension of the lockdown in Glasgow as opposition politicians call for a “clear exit plan” for Scotland’s biggest city.

Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that Glasgow would remain in level three restrictions for at least another week was described as a “bitter blow” for pubs and restaurants in the city, which will have to wait until at least Wednesday for another update.

The Scottish Hospitality Group also warned the continued lockdown was “counter productive” with residents travelling outside of the city and criticised the decision to allow a 6,000 capacity fan-zone in the city centre for the European Championships.

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The First Minister said she would make the decision on whether a planned move to level two for the city on Friday next week would go ahead no later than Wednesday in a bid to give businesses more notice.

A woman wearing a protective face mask walks through Glasgow city centre. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

However, the extension of the lockdown in Glasgow means the city will spend at least 277 days in lockdown – the longest continuous period of strict restrictions for any part of the United Kingdom.

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It means Glaswegians remain unable to travel in and out of the city without a good reason or go into the houses of family and friends, with hospitality subject to tougher rules on opening hours and the sale of alcohol.

The decision to delay the move to level two could also see a potential delay to plans for Scotland to move to level one on a nationwide basis as planned on June 7.

Ms Sturgeon indicated it was possible not all of the country could move down to level one as planned, with a decision on whether areas or the whole country will be subject to a delay set for Tuesday in Holyrood.

Reacting to the decision to keep Glasgow in level three, Leon Thompson, the executive director at UKHospitality Scotland, labelled the move a “bitter blow” with the impact described as “devastating”.

He said: “UKHospitality Scotland members in Glasgow are experiencing devastating financial burdens with owners, operators and workers struggling with the pressure of this ongoing situation.

"Waiting another week in the hope of good news will sap morale further, heaping more misery on businesses that have not been able to trade fully since last October.

“It is essential that the Scottish Government fully recognises the devastation being caused to Glasgow’s most important business sector and provides the necessary financial support to hospitality businesses, to avoid closures and job losses.”

Concerns around whether the policy would have any effect on nationwide numbers was also called into question.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, claimed the lockdown would be counter productive given individuals were already visiting other parts of Scotland to escape the restrictions.

He said: “All that’s going to happen is people will continue to travel outside Glasgow city centre, further spreading the virus. We already know that’s happening.

"So, if things are really that bad that there needs to be this continued lockdown, then this is a counter-productive move and makes no sense as far as the government’s policy is concerned.”

Mr Montgomery also criticised the decision by the Scottish Government to allow a 6,000 capacity ‘fan zone’ in Glasgow for Euro 2020, and called for a change of approach away from case numbers and towards hospital admissions and ICU numbers.

He said: “With the vaccine roll-out and all the preventative measures that the government has had us put in place, it should be possible to remove Glasgow from these unfair restrictions now.

"It is quite staggering to think that the plan for the fan zone at Glasgow Green is in full swing, but here we have a situation where Scottish Government thinks that keeping Glasgow City in level 3 and throwing hospitality businesses a pitiful £750 per week is acceptable.”

Andrew McRae, the Scotland policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, called on the Scottish Government to provide more support to small businesses affected.

He said: “Glasgow businesses are getting used to these weekly Friday disappointments. This one is all the more galling because it looks like Monday will see Glasgow basking in the sort of gloriously sunny bank holiday that could have helped small hospitality operators recoup some of their losses.

“The First Minister did suggest there might be light at the end of the tunnel next week – and breaking the Friday-for-Monday announcement cycle will give business owners a little more notice.

"It’s very difficult to run a business, or plan your family finances, when you need to tune into the lunchtime news on a Friday to find out if you’ll be working on the Monday.

“The businesses and employees hardest hit by these ongoing restrictions need proper support now.”

Paul Waterson, media spokesman for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, added: “It’s bittersweet for the many pubs, bars and other licensed hospitality businesses who are still in limbo and missing out on the May bank holiday weekend trading that so many operators had hoped for.”

Opposition politicians called for a “clear exit plan” for Glasgow, with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar labelling the delay to the city reopening “disappointing”.

On Twitter, he called for walk-in vaccine clinics for adults, mass testing and greater business support, and added the announcement should have been made to Holyrood rather than on TV.

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said it was time for the vaccination rollout to be ramped up and for a more localised approach.

He said: “Glasgow has now been under Covid restrictions for 270 days and people were looking to the First Minister to give them some hope. Instead, we saw Nicola Sturgeon keep the whole city under tougher restrictions for another week, despite outbreaks being largely confined to one area.

“We must see the SNP immediately ramp up the vaccination rollout and testing capacity in these hotspots, rather than continuing to treat the city as one entity.

“Businesses are facing further damage at not being able to open over a bank holiday weekend and have been left in limbo yet again by the First Minister. They are desperately trying to plan ahead, but won’t know until Wednesday if they can re-open next Saturday.”

On whether the rest of Scotland is expected to continue following the route map set out earlier in the year, Ms Sturgeon indicated there might be regional variation as to who may benefit.

June 7 was set to be the next date for a substantial change in restrictions.

A number of Scottish islands are already in level one. Ms Sturgeon said she remains “really optimistic” there could be a similar easing of restrictions on the mainland as planned.

Such a move would allow up to eight people from three households to meet indoors in pubs, cafes and bars, while up to 12 people from 12 different households could socialise together outside in gardens or outdoor public places.

However, the First Minister added: “Given that Glasgow is in a different level right now, I think it would not be an unreasonable assumption that it might also have to be in level two for a couple of weeks before it moves to level one.

“That’s an assumption at the moment, I will make these decisions on the basis of the up-to-date data.

“And of course the purpose of the levels system is that while yes, we want the country if possible all to be in the same level, it allows us to have that regional variation, so we’re not holding back the Highlands because Glasgow has an outbreak.

“I can’t rule out at any stage, particularly given we’re seeing some areas with higher levels than others right now, that there will be a variable decision on Tuesday.”

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