Covid lockdown in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon must listen to hospitality industry's concerns about new rules – Scotsman comment

On Monday, Scotland will see a further relaxation of the lockdown restrictions as a result of good progress in stopping the spread of the Covid virus and inoculating the population.

As of yesterday morning, there were 106 people in hospital in Scotland compared to the peak of 2,053 patients in January, and more than 2.75 million people – 60 per cent of Scotland’s adults – had received a first dose of vaccine.

The new lockdown regime has been, by necessity, designed over a relatively short period to achieve the complicated balancing act of allowing the economic and social recovery from this appalling crisis while continuing to keep a grip on the virus.

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So it seems almost inevitable that there will be mistakes of some kind; some rules may look reasonable on paper but inadvertently and unnecessarily cause huge problems in practice.

It is abundantly clear that the hospitality industry has serious concerns about the regulations, particularly those to do with social distancing, due to come in force on Monday. Edinburgh restaurateur Carina Contini has described recent guidance from the Scottish government as an “absolute bombshell”, saying it would make re-opening “an absolutely impossibility”. She even said that the “regulations are now more harmful, more dangerous to our business than Covid itself”.

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Given the level of uproar, the Scottish government has a duty to take it seriously and give due consideration to the industry’s concerns.

This is a view shared even by those whose focus is on tackling the virus. Linda Bauld, professor of public health at Edinburgh University, has said it is “extremely important” that the sector is able to express their concerns about what is feasible and that the “government has to balance up additional harms” against the importance of dealing with Covid.

Nicola Sturgeon wears a face covering while campaigning in the Edinburgh Central constituency (Picture: Andy Buchanan/pool/Getty Images)

Hospitality is a vital part of the Scottish economy and has been among the sectors to have been hardest hit by lockdown. At the very least, they deserve greater clarity and better explanations.

And it is not unreasonable for the people running these businesses, upon which their own and others’ livelihoods depend, to question whether some of the rules are really necessary and to be given a response.

It is not ‘Covid denial’ to ask questions – instead, it is vital to getting the lockdown right.

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