'Vertical drinking' to be allowed in Scotland's pubs and clubs from next Monday
John Swinney has been told to go for a “good long horizontal lie down” after the Scottish Government said they would allow "vertical drinking" in bars just hours after the Deputy First Minister appeared to rule it out.
Nicola Sturgeon yesterday confirmed that Scotland would move beyond level zero next week, with a number of COVID restrictions lifted.
It’s a huge moment for the hospitality sector, with no venues now legally being required to close, allowing nightclubs to reopen for the first time in 18 months. The end of physical distancing should also mean increased capacity in many venues.
However, there’s been some confusion over when patrons will be required to wear masks.
In an interview with BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday, Swinney was asked if the change in rules meant drinkers could enjoy their drink at a bar rather than having to sit at tables.
He told the BBC': "What we're saying is that people can quite easily go out for a drink, they can go out for a meal, they can sit at tables, but some of the things that have been a hallmark of hospitality venues in the past of vast gatherings of people around a bar standing up may not be a good idea.
"I don't think it's absolutely necessary for people to crowd around a bar to do vertical drinking. That's not necessary."
Swinney added: “Where there are existing requirements to wear face coverings in congested public places, moving around in hospitality, in public transport, in all these contexts, people should continue to wear face coverings.”
The SNP politician admitted it would be “a bit tricky” for people in clubs to wear masks.
He told the BBC: “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 night club that is quite a challenge.
“I don’t think it’s a particular hardship for people when they get up from a table - if they are having a drink - to go to the toilet, they put on a face covering to move through because they will be encountering other people away from the group that they are in.
“I do accept, however, that if you are dancing in a nightclub it is a slightly different situation.”
Hours later, Paul Togneri, from the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, said the government had backed down on the ban on vertical drinking.
He tweeted: "Confirmation from @scotgov officials that vertical drinking WILL be allowed from Monday in Scotland's pubs and bars.
"It was confirmed verbally to ourselves, @SLTAssociation, @ScottishGroup, @ukhscotland, @ScotsLicensing, @CKPLoudon and others. Guidance should have it in black and white when it's published (disappointingly not expected until tomorrow)."
Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Annie Wells MSP, said: “This is a shambles. 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.