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by Andrew Learmonth
16 November 2021
Hospitality firms plead with Nicola Sturgeon not to extend Covid passport scheme

Hospitality firms plead with Nicola Sturgeon not to extend Covid passport scheme

Hospitality firms have urged the Scottish Government not to extend the Covid passport scheme to include pubs and leisure businesses.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to update parliament later today on the state of the pandemic, and there’s speculation she could toughen measures in a bid to tackle high infection rates. 

Last week, Deputy First Minister John Swinney told MSPs “strengthening the baseline protective measures” could be necessary to avoid “more difficult restrictions” over the winer. 

He said the government had been considering extending the Covid certification scheme to bring more settings into scope, such as indoor hospitality like pubs and restaurants and leisure sites, such as cinemas.

Currently, everyone over the age of 18 must now show their Covid certificate, showing they've had two doses of the vaccine, to gain entry into nightclubs, unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.

A survey of pubs and clubs and restaurants carried out by Scotland’s hospitality trade bodies found that more than three quarters of business owners and operators feared any further measures could mean they won’t survive the winter without further government support. 

At the moment, 83.6 per cent of businesses say that turnover is already down by over 10 per cent on pre-pandemic levels, and 95.2 per cent say trade has been negatively impacted by the Covid passports.

In a joint statement, the trade bodies said: ”From this survey it is clear to see that Scotland’s hospitality sector is in a precarious situation, making the recovery period all the more important. Four out of five (83.6per cent) businesses are significantly below pre-pandemic levels and with inflation, debt levels and other costs rising, the sector is facing a very difficult winter ahead.

“The survey also shows that covid certification has a hugely negative impact on businesses already caught by the policy and any extension will have a devastating impact on the wider hospitality sector. Three quarters (76.2per cent) say they would not survive without further economic support from Government, should the policy be extended. 

“It’s a similarly worrying picture for staff with over 95per cent of businesses saying that if trade reduced in line with expectations, they would have to reduce staff hours by the same or greater percentage as the loss of turnover.  Given that turnover has reduced by 20per cent to 40per cent for businesses impacted by the scheme, this would be a devastating blow for the sector’s 100,000 workers just in the run-up to Christmas.

“The Scottish Government must take this into consideration when making the decision on any extension of the covid certification and provide the economic support to keep thousands of businesses afloat.”

Paul Waterson, from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: “We have been perfectly clear on the negative effect it will have if that is passed down into pubs, bars, restaurants and other licensed trade outlets.

“To enforce this is going to be very, very difficult. To have door stewards in community-style pubs is just a ridiculous cost to them. If they bring this in then any licensed premises that doesn’t habitually have door staff, a small pub or restaurant for instance, has got to all of a sudden have them. You cannot work on the door of a pub or licensed premises until you have that SIA [accreditation] and the vast majority of licensed premises are not geared up for that.”

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - SNP minister's 'disappointment and loss' over Derek Mackay texting scandal

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