The Scottish Government has said people in pubs will not have to wear a mask when drinking “whether seated or standing” amid confusion over coronavirus rule changes.
Scotland’s Covid Recovery Secretary and Deputy First Minister John Swinney was earlier criticised after suggesting drinkers would have to be seated in bars.
During an appearance BBC Radio Scotland, he was asked: “If you are standing at a bar, for instance – vertical drinking as they call it – you are standing up having a drink at a bar, can you do that without wearing a face covering?”
Mr Swinney replied: “No, you can’t” – adding you can order at a bar wearing a face covering but not stand there and drink it.
Earlier in the interview, he said: “If people are sitting down at a table and having a drink you can say the hospitality rules apply there and people don’t have to wear a face covering.
“But if somebody is up dancing, which they are inevitably moving around, the existing rules say they should wear a face covering – but I accept that in a nightclub that is quite a challenge.
“That is why we are having the discussions and we will iron those issues out in consultation with the sector in the course of today.”
The Scottish Hospitality Group later contradicted the comments.
The pubs body said: “There will be no restriction on vertical drinking ref to masks.
“If you are standing you can take your mask off to drink/consume.
“This mornings comments from @JohnSwinney on @BBCGaryR #bbcgms were inaccurate and needs to be clarified now by @scotgov.”
In a statement issued later by a spokeswoman, the Scottish Government 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.”
She added: “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.”
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), attended a meeting on Wednesday with the Scottish Government and other industry groups.
The group has also said officials provided clarity after the “confusing messages” from Mr Swinney.
Mr Wilkinson said: “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.
“Mr Swinney’s comments were both unhelpful and misinformed.”
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) had also raised concerns following Mr Swinney’s “extremely worrying” comments.
Its Scotland director, Joe Crawford, said: “Being allowed to order at the bar is all well and good but if, from August 9, pub goers can only have a drink whilst sitting at a table that means our smaller, community locals still won’t be able to operate at a normal capacity or trade at a level they need to make ends meet.
“This is huge blow for consumers, pubs and the breweries that serve them who were hoping to be joining England and Wales in moving towards normality.”
He added: “There is absolutely no sense in ministers allowing large groups to congregate on dancefloors in nightclubs but not allowing two or three friends to stand and chat with a pint in their hand at their local pub.”
Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for health, Annie Wells MSP, described it as 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.”