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Hospitality bosses demand Covid recovery focus in independence row

Hospitality bosses said Nicola Sturgeon should focus on Scotland's Covid recovery.

Nicola Sturgeon should delay the push for a second independence referendum and let the Scottish hospitality “draw breath” after economic turmoil, industry figures warned.

Restaurant and hotel chiefs spoke out after the SNP leader insisted “preparatory work” is under way to hold IndyRef2 next year.

The first minister had paused the campaign to leave the UK since the Covid pandemic struck in 2020.

Second vote plans

Ms Sturgeon now wants to hold a second vote on independence before the end of 2023 as pandemic restrictions are eased.

She said ministers are still yet to decide when a bill will be introduced to Holyrood.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Boris Johnson and senior Westminster Tories have repeatedly said they will block a referendum from taking place despite SNP demands.

On Monday morning Deputy First Minister John Swinney said there were “clear signs” Scotland’s economy was recovering as Covid recedes.

Hospitality woes

But hospital bosses warned the sector is still in major trouble after forced closures as they warned against more uncertainty.

Firms in Pitlochry – which depends heavily on tourists – told us they struggled during the pandemic due to a lack of visitors.

Food boss Mario Gizzi, who owns Di Maggio’s and Cafe Andaluz in Aberdeen, said normality was needed before any further votes.

Speaking in Glasgow, he said: “We’ve been through referendum, pandemics, we just need to draw breath now and allow business and the people to get back to normal.”

We can’t, every time something happens, press the panic button.

– Mario Gizzi, Di Maggio’s Group director

He also called for a four-nations approach to Covid measures and wants more cooperation between the SNP and Westminster Tories.

He added: “We can’t, every time something happens, press the panic button. There’s total confusion.”

Scottish Hospitality Group Boss Stephen Montgomery disputed Mr Swinney’s claim that the economy is recovering.

He said: “Mr Swinney just needs to take a walk down Glasgow high street on a Friday night when some of the shops are still open with nobody in them.”

Mr Montgomery claimed that calls from ministers to cancel Christmas nights out last month due to the Omicron variant “crippled” pubs and bars across Scotland.

‘Hardest hitting restrictions’

He said: “It was probably the hardest hitting restrictions we’ve had.”

It comes ahead of Nicola Sturgeon’s latest Covid update in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

Omicron restrictions on hospitality were eased on Monday with nightclubs able to reopen and mandatory table service scrapped.

The First Minister is not expected to make any major changes to the current rules with people still expected to wear masks.

‘Blind spot’

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar joined the hospitality figures in Glasgow to outline a 10-point plan to deal with Covid and called for a framework to introduce virus curbs.

It came as he slammed Ms Sturgeon for having a “blind spot” on independence.

The party leader said the SNP wanted to “divide” Scotland after asking members of the public to unite during the pandemic.

ernie ross
Labour’s Anas Sarwar.

He said: “Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have a blind spot when it comes to the constitution.

“The Scottish Government want to say to people: you pulled your communities together, you worked together, but now that we’re coming through it, lets go back to arguing with each other again.

“Lets go back to dividing our country again. And I think that perfectly demonstrates the blind spot.”

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