Draft Scottish hospitality guidance was 'intended to be illustrative', says minister

Hospitality businesses which were last week thrown into turmoil by the publication of stringent Scottish Government guidance surrounding their reopening have welcomed a letter from culture secretary Fiona Hyslop that stated the stricter regulations were “intended to be illustrative”.

Ms Hyslop told businesses the rules had not changed from when bars, restaurants and pubs were allowed to open last year.

Draft guidance published last week suggested that people from different households would have to observe social distancing at tables when the hospitality sector begins to reopen on Monday.

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The sector had expected that one metre social distancing would apply between tables, but warned the draft guidance could mean a 3.5m table would be required for a group of six.

The hospitality industry will begin to open from Monday. Picture: PA

However, Ms Hyslop said the draft guidance would now be adjusted based on feedback from the industry.

From Monday, cafes, restaurants and bars can open indoors, but are not allowed to serve alcohol and must close at 8pm. Outdoor areas can serve alcohol and must close at 10pm.

Paul Togneri, spokesman for the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said: “This letter is hugely welcomed. It reiterates the confirmation from the First Minister yesterday that there are no new rules for hospitality premises beyond the requirement to display the maximum capacity.

"The confusion which had been created over this has caused hospitality operators across the country unnecessary stress and worry, just one week before opening. Hopefully they can now press ahead with their plans and look forward to welcoming customers back from Monday.”

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “The draft guidance which was issued last week caused some unnecessary concern.

"However, clarity that the guidance remains the same as before as highlighted within the First Minister’s briefing [on Tuesday] and subsequent letter from Fiona Hyslop today [Wednesday] I hope will allay these concerns and end any confusion that has permeated various circles over the course of this week.”

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The letter stated: "The recently published draft guidance on Physical Distance based capacity (PDBC) was intended by government officials to support rather than replace that ongoing work by providing a methodology for calculating the physical distanced capacity of a public setting in any situation.

"The methodology they produced was intended to be illustrative rather than prescriptive and aims to provide a framework for public settings in general to consider how many people can safely physically distance in any given space.”

Ms Hyslop added: “Ministers have made clear that the rules on physical distancing have not changed. The only new ask for businesses is to display their maximum capacity with physical distancing.

"This is to foster consumer confidence generally for all places and settings where the public will increasingly be able to gather and to help support a safe working environment.

“We recognise the confusion and concern which has been caused by the lack of clarity around this, which is why I was keen to write to you to make it clear that this guidance does not change the guidance which many businesses have been working to since last year.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday had hit out at “myths” she said had been circulating around the draft guidance.

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