Deputy First Minister John Swinney has admitted it would be a “challenge” to ask people to wear face coverings on nightclub dance floors.
The SNP politician confirmed the Scottish Government will meet with the nightclub industry over the course of today to discuss how they will operate from Monday.
He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland that wearing face coverings in these settings would be “a bit tricky to be honest”.
The deputy first minister faced questions over the potential contradiction around allowing hundreds of people to dance in a club without face coverings but still expecting their use if queuing for a drink at a bar.
The Scottish Conservatives accused the Scottish Government of “tying themselves in knots trying to explain the inconsistencies in the latest Covid guidance”.
Mr Swinney said that “things that have been a hallmark of hospitality venues in the past, of vast gatherings of people in the bar standing up, maybe that’s not a good idea in the context of Covid being a part of our lives.”
He added: “If you’re going to a nightclub to have a dance, I accept you have to stand up and you have to have that dance and move about.
“I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary for people to crowd around a bar to do vertical drinking. That’s not necessary for that purpose.”
The deputy first minister came under fire for his suggestion that “vertical drinking” would not be permitted from Monday.
Just hours later, Scottish Government officials told representatives from the licensed hospitality trade that drinking at a bar would in fact be allowed.
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) described Mr Swinney’s comments as “both unhelpful and misinformed”.
He added: “It is absolutely crucial to have this clarified although we are still waiting for the finer detail on this and other questions.
“However, we thank the Scottish Government for their time today and hope that further information is forthcoming before Monday.”
Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman, said the situation is a “shambles”.
She added: “Within just a few hours, the SNP Government have u-turned on what John Swinney emphatically told everyone earlier.
“He had to apologise for promoting fake news a few weeks ago and now his officials have been forced to slap down his latest gaffe in humiliating fashion.
“Mixed messaging like this is unacceptable. It makes life even harder for businesses who already have to adapt to new rules.
“John Swinney doesn’t need a vertical drink, he needs a good long horizontal lie down.”
‘Engaging with nightclub sector’
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are encouraging the hospitality sector to consider retaining safety measures that are currently in place to help protect the public and staff.
“While wearing of face masks is not required while eating or drinking (whether seated or standing), in order to avoid crowding in hospitality venues it may be sensible to keep measures such as table service or operate a queuing system.
“We are currently engaging with the nightclub sector on guidance to ensure they can safely reopen on 9 August. It is due to be published in the coming days.”