Scotland's night-life is at risk of being killed off by prolonged restrictions, leading operators warn

Scotland's night-life is at risk of dying out unless concert venues and nigtclubs are given the green light to open their doors before the end of this year, industry leaders have warned.

Voodoo Rooms director Ewan McNaught says the messaging from the Scottish Government has been 'soul-destroying.'

Operators have pleaded for a “sea change” in the Scottish Government’s approach after recent warnings restrictions will likely to have to remain in place long after the vaccine roll-out has been completed this year.

They want to resume normality for the events and nightclubbing sectors within months by reopening venues without social distancing.

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But they have raised fears their industry is about to be sacrificed in the face of constant warnings from public health experts which they say have left the government “petrified of risk.”

Last week the government said there would be a need for Scots to live with restrictions for “some considerable time” after the vaccine programme is completed.

National clinical director Jason Leitch said: “This is not about Scotland being vaccinated. It's about the world being vaccinated.”

However Donald MacLeod, one of Glasgow’s leading music promoters and venue owners, said it was essential to restore confidence to businesses involved in the night-time economy instead of leaving the industry on the brink of “destruction.”

He said: “Are we going to live in fear of the virus for all-time?’

Donald MacLeod says the Scottish Government is paying too much attention to public health experts at the expense of business owners.

“My worry is that they decide we’re industry that can be scrapped. We've not been given any hope to think otherwise.“Why should we have social distancing if there is no threat and we’ve protected the elderly, the most vulnerable and at-risk groups?

"That’s not going to happen at the moment, but it should happen in the summer. It would be murder to keep us locked down.

"I don't think it'll happen until there is a sea change within the government so that we are not being run by health advisers. They need to get off their soap boxes and back to their day jobs.”

Ewan McNaught, director of the Voodoo Rooms, which hosts both live music and clubbing events, said recent messages from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy John Swinney had been “soul destroying.”

Sneaky Pete's in Edinburgh has warned it will not be able to reopen until physical distancing restrictions are lifted.

He added: “Vaccine approval and rollout should have been a source of hope, but thegovernment is so in thrall to the zero Covid fantasy, so petrified of risk from the new variants, and so entrenched in negative messaging and evasion of all risk and responsibility that they’ve completely extinguished that optimism.

"They’ve boxed themselves into a corner, crippled by caution, and are now completely incapable of offering any hope whatsoever to the business community.

"Let’s be clear, continuing with these restrictions once furlough finishes, and other forms of government support dry up, will be the end.

“All these jobs and businesses that have been on life-support will have the plug pulled on them. That’s the cost of pursuing a ‘safety first’ strategy of extending restrictions after the vaccine roll-out.”

Donald MacLeod received an outstanding contribution honour at the Scottish Music Awards in 2018 and was awarded an MBE by the Queen last year.

Nick Stewart, Scottish coordinator of the Music Venues Alliance, which represents grassroots venues, said: “I’m less concerned with exactly predicting dates of when venues can be open. Too many factors can change those dates.

"Instead I’d like political decisions to be made now, and made public now, about the circumstances under which we can get the show back on the road.

“The Scottish Government has done an incredible job of targeting grassroots music venues for financial support.

“The public have shown so much incredible support for their local venues through crowdfunders and continuing to buy tickets for rescheduled events.

“No Scottish grassroots music venue has permanently closed as a direct result of the pandemic, which is an outstanding result.

"But we have to plan now so we can book shows later in the year.

"Venues are definitely only comfortable opening when it is safe to do so. They are already skilled in risk management, it’s part of the job.

"Decisions about circumstances under which we can reopen can’t come soon enough.”

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