Scotland’s top hoteliers call on Government to provide ‘urgent’ clarity over restrictions for festive period

Georgina Hayes
·4 min read
The Scottish Government has been widely criticised for announcing severe restrictions on hospitality at short notice - PA
The Scottish Government has been widely criticised for announcing severe restrictions on hospitality at short notice - PA

Nearly 100 of Scotland’s top hoteliers and restaurants have called for urgent clarity from the Scottish Government over what tiers they will fall under during the festive period, amid warnings the sector “can’t work on Nicola Sturgeon’s timescales anymore”.

The Scottish Government has been widely criticised for announcing severe restrictions on hospitality at short notice, costing businesses thousands in wasted supplies and “failing to adequately engage” with the sector or provide evidence to justify the measures. 

The campaign, which has gained support from big names including the Marcliffe Hotel in Aberdeen, Prestonfield House in Edinburgh and Kincraig Castle Hotel in the Highlands, calls on the Government to confirm the future tier system up to the end of December so that businesses can prepare for the festive period.

The current lack of detailed information is “directly impacting bookings”, they said, at a period that is “of critical importance to protecting the industry’s financial stability”.

“Trying to work out how to run our businesses has been complicated, confusing and actually impossible,” said Jill Chalmers, managing director of Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire.

“Here we are four weeks away from Christmas, one of our busiest times, and we don’t even know what tier we’re going into. That has an impact on everything; you can’t plan your business when the unknown is ahead of you,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

Among the group’s demands is clarity on cross-border and cross-regional travel plans, as well as details on any potential January lockdown to give businesses time to plan accordingly.

“We fully understand there’s got to be reasonable rules to prevent unnecessary deaths, and the industry has demonstrated our commitment to that by spending an awful lot of money on Covid-secure measures,” she added.

“But there’s also got to be an understanding that we need to know now, not every Tuesday or when the English Government has an announcement and then Nicola Sturgeon tweaks it a little four hours later."

There was particular fury within the sector when it was announced that large swathes of businesses in the West of Scotland would have to close their doors for three weeks under Level 4 restrictions with only three days’ notice. 

“There is now a severe possibility that there will be a permanent scar on the Scottish economy, and a lot of that is caused by delayed decision-making by the Scottish Government,” said Ms Chalmers.

“It’s really muddy messaging and it needs to be longer term. We can’t work on Nicola Sturgeon’s timescales anymore.”

The call for clarity follows the Scottish Hospitality Group urging SNP ministers to tweak the tiers and ease restrictions on businesses to allow for “safer socialising than in private homes”.

A poster that reads "Nicola there are 75 jobs here" was displayed outside the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in the West End of Glasgow - PA
A poster that reads "Nicola there are 75 jobs here" was displayed outside the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in the West End of Glasgow - PA

The group also called for better grant support for the beleaguered sector, including lifting caps on financial help for businesses.

Commenting, Scottish Labour’s culture, tourism and external affairs spokesperson Claire Baker said: “The SNP Government continues to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the needs of the hospitality sector, with last-minute lockdowns and erratic messaging playing havoc with these businesses. 

“It is only fair that our businesses are given proper notice and time to prepare for a lockdown, especially in what would be one of the highest revenue periods of the year. 

“Hospitality is on its knees. The least the Scottish Government can do is commit to providing details on which tiers they will be in as we head towards Christmas.” 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Every decision we take has sole objective of trying to keep the country as safe as possible and to get it through what we hope is now the final stage of the pandemic, with as few lives lost and as little harm to health – and, indeed, as little harm to the overall economy – as possible.

“Clearly, if we do not properly control the virus, the damage to the economy becomes worse, and the effects will be even longer lasting.

“We are doing everything we can with the powers we have to help businesses, offering support which now exceeds £2.3 billion, and we also establishing a £30 million discretionary fund to enable local authorities to provide additional support for businesses where they consider that necessary. The Scottish Government is working closely with local authorities in developing these funds and further details will be announced shortly.”