What are the Covid restrictions in Scotland - and how do they impact hospitality?

Nicola Sturgeon announced new restrictions today (14 December) as the Omicron variant continues to spread.

Published 14th Dec 2021
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

Businesses and hospitality premises face new legal requirements to enforce social distancing and reduce crowding, in what some labelled “another terrible blow” during the festive period.

What are the new Covid measures for hospitality?

The aim is to reduce crowding, use protective screens, and enforce social distancing in order to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

In hospitality there will be a reminder to collect contact details for Test and Protect, and measures to avoid overcrowding at bars and between tables.

Businesses are required to "have regard to guidance" from the government, and to take "reasonably practicable" measures to minimise the spread of the virus.

These include "measures which limit close face to face interaction and maintain hygiene" by changing the layout of premises and avoiding bottlenecks in entrances and corridors.

While table service won't be mandatory, it's being urged that businesses adopt this to limited the number of people coming into contact with each other.

When do they come into force?

The new Covid guidance came into force on Friday 17 December.

These restrictions come after Public Health Scotland advised that people cancel their Christmas parties due to the spread of the new variant.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said licensed businesses are now in a worse state than this time last year, and accused Public Health Scotland and the First Minister of “killing Christmas” with previous advice to defer festive parties.

The industry “desperately needs aid”, said SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson, adding that a £100 million package announced by the First Minister will be “nowhere near” enough.

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Night Time Industries Association Scotland acknowledged the difficult public health position, but said: "Following Public Health Scotland's call to cancel Christmas parties last week, our sector saw £1bn of damage to December revenue as a result.

"New restrictions this week will certainly cause additional economic damage and we await details from Scottish Government over the coming days.

"It is now vital that Government commits to fully replacing the losses being incurred by Scotland's small businesses on a pound for pound basis.

"To do otherwise puts 100,000 jobs at risk and puts the very survival of the sector in doubt.

"The £100m fund announced today is a drop in the ocean compared to the losses already being incurred by our members and comes nowhere close to protecting the sector, the income of staff, and the survival of small Scottish businesses.

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"We look forward to meeting Cabinet Secretary Forbes and officials today and will seek clarity on the details of support and restrictions which must learn from previous experience and now be developed in consultation with the sector to provide workable and clear guidance.

"Our members are ready to work with Scottish government to protect both lives and livelihoods and ensure the safest possible Christmas for Scotland.”

Christmas cancellations

Many business owners have had bookings cancelled with Nikos Matsikas of Brasserie Ecosse in Dundee explaining that he'd seen a 20 per cent cancellation rate.

"As a restaurant we had strict measures in place from the beginning, and was awarded the Covid Planning award from the AA," he said.

"During the both times we we re-opened after the lockdowns, neither my team or I have caught Covid, or had any of our guests to date.

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"After the announcement this past week I noticed a 20 per cent cancellation rate of large and even smaller bookings as people follow the advice of the government even if not mandatory.

"The cancellation trend has hit other Hospitality businesses after speaking to other colleagues at their venues reached almost a 50 per cent cancellation rate.

"It really affects people physiologically when they hear their own government advising not to go out and Hospitality is not a necessity.

"We were all geared up for the festive season and I had to plan this for months before as we were facing product shortages due to Covid and Brexit combined and wanted to be prepared, but if this trend of cancellations continue all our planning, supplies purchases and additional staff hired will have a major affect on our survival as the usual 1.5 months after Christmas business always tends to be slower for restaurants."

Graham Suttle, managing director of Kained Holdings which owns Lebowskis, The Finnieston and Porter and Rye revealed over the last week, two-thirds of his bookings have been cancelled.

He said: “The announcement has been nothing short of a let-down, yet again.

“It’s a bit of a slap in the face. Two-thirds of bookings have been cancelled. That’s primarily because people don’t really know what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable, they don’t really know the details.

“It’s not good enough for a government to update an industry may or may not be closing."

How to help

If you are scaling back on Christmas plans this year, buying a gift voucher for your local restaurant as a gift for yourself or a loved one will help businesses.

Some restaurants are still doing cook at home meal kits, with Christmas and New Year options available.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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