Businesses push for clarity after Sturgeon announcement to ease lockdown

Restrictions in Scotland will not be lifted until at least April 5, when the levels system will return.

Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood
Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood

Businesses have said more clarity is needed about the easing of restrictions after the First Minister’s lockdown announcement.

Nicola Sturgeon detailed how lockdown would be lifted in Scotland in Holyrood on Tuesday, with a three-phased approach, the first of which saw some pupils return to schools this week.

The second phase, which will not start until at least March 15, will see more pupils back in school and non-contact sports for those aged 12-17 allowed to restart, while the third phase will see a full return of schools, the lifting of the stay at home order and the expansion of the essential retail definition – but not before April 5.

The First Minister then said Scotland would return to a localised levels approach, similar to what was in place towards the end of last year.

While business groups are frustrated with the lack of detail in the plans, some have acknowledged the need for a cautious approach.

Dr Liz Cameron OBE, the chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “While it does not go as far or as fast as the Prime Minister did towards clarifying when we can get back to business, we will continue to robustly represent business views to Scottish Government to help inform this plan in the coming days and weeks.”

She added: “More detail on the roadmap is essential as it will enable both consumers as well as businesses plan for reopening, and we need the Scottish Government to stick to its guns on these dates as much as is possible.”

Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive Marc Crothall, said: “Today’s provisional timescale of the gradual re-opening of the economy as set out by the First Minister today is welcome, however, I know from the many conversations I’ve had with tourism businesses this week, and particularly within the last 24 hours that they were hoping for more detail around the pathway to reopening.

“The detail announced today does not go far enough in giving our sector the clarity needed at this point to plan for reopening.”

Mr Crothall went on to say there has already been substantial interest in Scottish tourism since the Westminster road map announcement on Monday, and pushed for a Scottish Government backed marketing campaign to drum up interest in visits to Scotland in the late summer and autumn.

Nicola Sturgeon on TV in a pub
The levels system puts different restrictions on sectors such as hospitality depending on council area (Andrew Milligan/PA)

With a return to the levels system which was in place last year, opening dates for hospitality premises cannot yet be determined.

Scottish Licensed Trade Association spokesman Paul Waterson said a return to the system, which imposes opening restrictions on bars and restaurants at certain levels, could see operators decide to remain closed.

“Brighter days lie ahead – there’s no doubt about that. However, pubs, bars and restaurants have been unable to open since before Christmas – under significant Covid constraints – and large swathes of 2020 were lost to lockdown closures or severely limited trading conditions,” he said.

“While it is encouraging that our sector can hopefully reopen from the end of April, we are concerned that a return to the previous tiered system will lead many operators to decide that such restrictive reopening conditions are simply not worth the time, effort and money involved.”

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