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Disappointment at lack of clarity in Scotland’s plan for lifting lockdown

By | Published on Wednesday 24 February 2021


The Night Time Industries Association has criticised Nicola Sturgeon for failing to provide more detail on when night-time businesses can re-open in Scotland as part of her latest COVID plan. The Scottish First Minister has said the vagueness was intentional though, in order to avoid giving “false assurance or picking arbitrary dates that have no grounding”.

Sturgeon’s announcement on plans for relaxing COVID restrictions in Scotland was made yesterday, following that of UK Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson about lockdown easing in England on Monday.

Johnson’s announcement gave rough dates for the lifting of most COVID restrictions, with the aim of things being close to back to normal by 21 Jun – although he warned that those dates could all change if certain conditions were not met.

Sturgeon, meanwhile, confirmed that the current lockdown would continue in Scotland until at least 5 Apr. She also said that non-essential shops, along with bars and restaurants, even with outdoor seating, would remain closed until at least the end of April.

“The lack of detail in the First Minister’s statement to the Scottish Parliament is highly disappointing”, says Mike Grieve, Chair of NTIA Scotland. “Boris [Johnson’s] announcement yesterday brought a real sense of optimism to our sector throughout the UK with the prospect of fully re-opening the late-night economy by the end of June in England”.

“It’s clear that the Scottish government has adopted a more cautious approach than Westminster throughout the pandemic”, he goes on. “But we hoped that our own roadmap in Scotland would align more closely with the rest of the UK to allow businesses to begin trading again and young people in particular to resume social activity in well-controlled and highly regulated environments such as clubs and music venues. The mental health of our young people is particularly threatened by the ongoing lockdown”.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Sturgeon said that the lack of detail in her announcement was intentional, warning that ‘Boris’ Johnson’s list of dates risks giving false hope. “I want to give as much as possible”, she said, “while avoiding giving false assurance or picking arbitrary dates that have no grounding at this stage in any objective assessment”.

“It is by being cautious, careful and patient for the next period – while the vaccination programme progresses – that we will make [the transition out of lockdown] as safe and sustainable as possible”, she went on. “Taking the brakes off too quickly will allow the virus to get ahead of us again and put our progress out of lockdown into reverse”.

With the night-time sector at large – and especially in Scotland – still facing plenty of uncertainty, Grieve also added that there is an urgent need for further financial support to avoid businesses going under while still being unable to operate.

“NTIA Scotland supports the prioritisation of vaccinations to suppress the virus and agree it is vital that the exit from lockdown is fully sustainable”, he says. “There must be a commitment to continue and accelerate the rollout of the vaccination to include all demographics and age groups as soon as the most vulnerable are protected. Meanwhile, it is absolutely vital that significant financial support continues for the most affected businesses such as late-night music venues and nightclubs until all trading restrictions are removed”.

Although night-time businesses in England do have more of an idea of when they could re-open, reps for the music industry also warned that further financial support will be required – particularly if the latest proposed dates for lifting restrictions move.