Scotland's most popular museums and galleries set to stay shut for weeks after reboot of tourism industry

Scotland's flagship museums and galleries are set to remain closed when the country’s tourism industry officially reopens for business next week.

Inside the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. Picture: Keith Hunter
Inside the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. Picture: Keith Hunter

Visitors attractions across the country joined forces today to warn that they are facing delays due the need to bring in new hygiene measures and put social distancing arrangements in place.

All indoor visitor attractions have been given the green light to open their doors on Wednesday, along with hotels, bars and restaurants.

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However the new V&A Dundee museum, the National Galleries of Scotland’s sites in Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland in the capital and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow are among the sites which say they are unable to open yet.

The Scottish National Gallery is one of most popular attractions in Edinburgh city centre.

Industry body Museums Galleries Scotland said its members were facing “logistical challenges” to ensure the safety of both staff and visitors.

It has warned that less than one in five of its sites will be reopened by the end of this month and that it will not be financially viable for some sites to reopen for the foreseeable future.

Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle, Skare Brae, Linlithgow Palace and Fort George, which are all run by government agency Historic Environment Scotland, are also expected to remain closed for the time being.

However Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian said it was planning to open on Wednesday. The RRS Discovery attraction in Dundee and the Verdant Works, two of the city’s best known heritage attractions, are due to open next week. The Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith is due to reopen on 27 July.

The joint statement from Museums Galleries Scotland said: “While we are collaborating as a sector to support and share knowledge of how to best to welcome back visitors, we will be reopening at varying times starting this summer and will make our individual announcements as soon as we are each able to do so.

"Reopening involves individual logistical challenges which we are approaching with a focus on protecting the health and safety of our visitors and employees whilst ensuring a quality visitor experience.

“We are all becoming more familiar with physical distancing and additional hygiene measures in our public spaces, and museums and galleries are similarly preparing in line with government guidelines. Training will enable our dedicated teams to continue to provide excellent customer support before and during visits. We support the introduction of the UK-wide ‘We’re Good to Go’ certification in reassuring all our visitors, staff and volunteers that they can be confident of their safety.

“We know that our visitors are eager to visit as soon as possible so we will be encouraging them to check our opening details online before they visit. In many cases, temporary ticketing systems will allow the booking of timed slots to enjoy our sites and our collections. Some museums and galleries may operate on different days or times and some may open partially so checking in advance will help visitors to prepare for any temporary experiential changes.

“Some museums and galleries, including those operating seasonally or reliant on the support of volunteers, may delay reopening until they are financially and operationally able to do so."

The National Galleries of Scotland, which has several sites in Edinburgh, said it was planning for a “phased reopening” of them in August.

A spokesman said: “We have been working hard on the plans for reopening, and the health and safety of our visitors, and the visitor experience, are at the very heart of this.

"The reopening of our sites requires complex logistical planning, and a gradual reopening allows us to prepare for and implement the appropriate measures that will ensure the health and safety of our visitors, volunteers and employees.

"These measures will follow government advice and include the implementation of physical distancing and PPE equipment, employee training and new temporary ticketing systems allowing visitors to book free timed slots to enjoy our sites and the national collection. We will also be working to securing the UK-wide ‘Good to Go’ accreditation.

"The pandemic has been difficult and challenging for all, and we would like to express our gratitude to the public for their ongoing engagement and support through these testing times.

"Whilst we gradually reopen, we will continue to support and work closely with our cultural partners. We will also continue to share Scotland’s wonderful national art collection online.”

A spokeswoman for National Museums Scotland said: “We are currently working on plans for the safe reopening of all our museums and are doing this in close consultation with Scottish Government. We will announce the specific dates in due course.”

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