A pub owner is urging the Scottish Government to ease the Level 3 lockdown restrictions, ahead of Tuesday’s expected announcement on the easing of lockdown measures.
Nic Wood, owner of Signature Pubs, which runs several premises across Scotland, said that previously, the Scottish government did not listen to any proposals regarding lockdown measures, with the current Level 3 proposals leaving his businesses unviable.
He is calling on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to revamp the restrictions, such as the ban on sales of alcohol in hospitality venues in Level 3 and 4 areas.
Mr Wood said: “It has been a very frustrating road. They have spent all their time concentrating on public health – and absolutely understandably – but there has been no give and take with understanding the economy and understanding what they’re doing to our industry, and that’s incredibly frustrating.
“We went through this previously in October of last year and unfortunately we went through and had a conversation with the government and showed them a set of proposals.
“They took none of that on board at all and that was incredibly disappointing.
“They were saying they were listening to the hospitality sector but they clearly weren’t listening at all.”
A number of trade bodies are calling on the Scottish government to more closely mirror the UK Government proposals for Level 3 restrictions, which include a closing time of 10.30pm instead of the current 6pm, and allowing alcohol to be served indoors with meals.
Mr Wood said the trade bodies, which include the Scottish Beer and Pub Association and the Scottish Hospitality Group, worked together to create a fair balance between the need to protect public health, while getting the economy restarted.
He said: “It’s going to be a long road back for everybody.
“We’ve got to try and build back customer confidence and get them wanting to come back and feel safe.
“We feel we’ve set out a set of proposals that will do that and at the same time will give us the ability to reopen a reasonable amount of our premises in order to get back up and trading.”
He added that the industry as a whole had not had enough support from the government in the past year, saying: “The grants they have provided have not covered any of the costs realistically that businesses are experiencing.
“Never mind about the rent and utilities that they’re having to pay. What the government are paying in furlough, we still have to pay pension contributions, national insurance and holiday accruals on top of that.
“We’re paying out a lot of money and have been doing since November last year, just to keep our employees in place and keep our businesses afloat.”
Mr Wood also dismissed claims that alcohol sales had any impact on a second spike of Covid-19, saying: “There was no evidence that alcohol caused a second spike.
“There’s been a second wave since October of last year and we haven’t served alcohol in the central belt of Scotland since October last year.
“There was a second wave and alcohol and the hospitality trade has done nothing to contribute towards that in any way. It’s not even possible.
“So to say that hospitality is a contributor in any way at all – there’s no evidence of this. And that’s incredibly frustrating for us as a business.
“As an industry we want to help people, we want to be social, we want to be somewhere where people can come and feel relaxed, and being blamed, being scapegoated for something that had nothing to do with us in any way at all is incredibly frustrating.”
Mr Wood thought that the government seemed to be erring on the side of caution with reopening the economy, saying: “I think we can see that Scotland hasn’t been quite as badly affected as the rest of the UK and I think that we could be reopening a little bit quicker than we are just now.”