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Bar bosses: Government should look at wider picture before shutting down ‘whole economies’ as Moray and Glasgow remain in Level 3

People can now enjoy a drink and meet friends inside as lockdown restrictions ease further for the majority of Scotland
People can now enjoy a drink and meet friends inside as lockdown restrictions ease further for the majority of Scotland

Hospitality bosses have urged the government to reconsider which figures it bases lockdown decisions on.

While most of Scotland moves to Level 2 today – opening up indoor hospitality, entertainment venues like cinemas and bingo halls and more travel opportunities – Moray and Glasgow remain in Level 3 due to case numbers.

Although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had indicated early last week that Moray was unlikely to move down early last week, the decision – and the fate of Glasgow – was only confirmed last on Friday afternoon.

Speaking to BBC’s Good Morning Scotland today, the convener of Glasgow’s licensing forum described it as a “travesty” and insisted it was “not the way to run an economy”.

His thoughts were echoed by Stuart McPhee, director of Siberia Bar and Hotel and spokesman for the Aberdeen Hospitality Together.

The pair suggested that instead of looking at the number of positive cases, the government should base its decisions on mortality figures and hospital admissions.

Testing across Moray has been stepped up as a result of the increase of cases – but hospitality bosses say that will skew the numbers the Scottish Government is using to make decisions

‘Desperately disappointing’

Donald MacLeod, convener of the local licensing forum in Glasgow, said: “What should have been a happy Monday is a blue, dank Monday.

“We’ve had a £1 million bar bill a day being foisted on us when you take in stock, staff coming off furlough and wasted food, beer and alcohol.

“It’s a total disgrace.

“Most of the hospitality sector in Scotland is against this type of approach. Mortality rates have dropped, hospital admissions have dropped yet we’ve been locked down.

“The government should be looking at specific areas – it shouldn’t be shutting down a whole economy and whole cities.

“Telling us at the 11th hour, when they’ve had plenty of time to tell us, that they’re shutting the city down is not good enough.”

Stuart McPhee, director of Siberia Bar and Hotel in Aberdeen

Mr McPhee, who reopened Siberia on Belmont Street, Aberdeen, last week, said he agreed “fully”.

He pointed to the increased community testing that was rolled out across Moray and said that would “naturally” mean there were higher case numbers recorded.

“If you look at Moray, they increased testing by 400%. If you increase testing you’re going to increase the likelihood of finding positive cases. If you’re basing decisions still on positive cases then we’re going to have lots of asymptomatic people, going to have lots of people self isolating who are absolutely fine.

“I don’t know what it is we’re doing at the moment.

“We should be looking at the data for hospitalisations and deaths. If the vaccine is what we’re trusting in and what we should be putting all our faith in, then we should be more optimistic.”

He agreed that the government should be looking at specific areas and target them with resources, allowing things to “keep moving”.

Relaxed hospitality rules elsewhere another ‘step back towards normality’

Siberia is one of many venues across the country that will reopen inside today.

Mr McPhee only opened the outside terrace last week, after deciding to take a phased approach to reopening, and said there had been “a lot of people and a lot of demand”.

“Today is another step back towards normality,” he said. “We have got a healthy booking pipeline, people are really keen to get back indoors and socialise again and we’re looking forward to it.

“Last week was really encouraging. There was a lot of people and a lot of demand. A lot of people who were not scared to get out and about.”

The rule changes mean six people can meet in a hospitality venue while eight people from eight houses can meet outdoors.

Up to six people from three households can socialise indoors in a private home or garden without physical distancing. The government advises people to use their best judgment around physical contact.

John Swinney at a briefing earlier this year

Deputy First Minister John Swinney also appeared on Good Morning Scotland, and urged people to be sensible.

He said: “I think there is obviously grounds for a lot of optimism and the relaxation of restrictions enables people to get on with more and more of their lives.

“But the situation that we face in Glasgow and in Moray illustrates just how fragile the progress that we are making is – so I suppose what I would say to members of the public is that we need to continue to tread carefully and cautiously and wearily as we relax these restrictions.

“As we enjoy some of the freedoms that we now have, we’ve got to handle them with a great deal of care.”

Must avoid ‘yo-yo’ lockdowns

When asked about lifting restrictions earlier in Moray, Mr Swinney added: “I doubt it could come earlier but we will certainly review it as we promised we would do in the course of this week and we’ll continue to look at other situations around the country.

“The last thing we want to do is to have local authority areas going in and out of restrictions like a yo-yo, that’s the worst of all possible models for the business community and the wider community.

“Obviously we’re still facing quite an acute problem in Glasgow, we’ve got a great deal of testing infrastructure that’s been deployed.”

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