Sturgeon calls on people to ‘minimise Hogmanay socialising’
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Speaking to the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Tuesday), the First Minister revealed the devolved government would implement further restrictions to large gatherings from Boxing Day. The Scottish Chamber of Commerce said businesses would see the announcement as like receiving “a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on the same day that the hospitality sector – which has been hard-hit by the pandemic – would be given £1billion as Plan B restrictions decimated Christmas takings.
However, one hotel chief described the bung as “like a dud cracker on Christmas Day.”
Now the hospitality sector is likely to face a further hit in Scotland.
From December 26, for a three-week period, the Scottish Government will limit the number of people who can attend live events.
Indoor standing events will be limited to 100 people, while seated events will be limited to 200.
For outdoor events, a maximum of 500 people will be able to attend.
Ms Sturgeon said she recognised that the new restrictions will “make sports matches, including football, effectively spectator-free”.
From December 27, until the first week of January, Scots will be asked to limit contacts as much as possible, and to maintain a social distance when out and about.
It means that many Hogmanay celebrations, including in Edinburgh, will not go ahead.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I know how disappointing this will be for those looking forward to these events, and for the organisers of them.”
She told Holyrood that Scottish ministers “judge these to be necessary to further slow the spread of the virus”.
She added that there was still no “compelling” evidence that the Omicron variant was “intrinsically milder” than other strains of the virus.
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She reiterated that she was not changing the advice for Christmas as “it is important with just a few days to go, there is certainty about family gatherings on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I am not asking anyone to change these.”
Reacting to the news, Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, told the Mail that the announcement “will be another hammer blow for employers and Scotland’s economy”.
Dr Cameron added: “Businesses across Scotland, who have been doing everything they can to keep their employees and customers safe, will be bitterly disappointed by these further restrictions.
“Some businesses and sectors will view this update as the equivalent of receiving a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking, further compounding the downturn in trade they have experienced in the crucial run-up to the festive period.”
The Scottish First Minister said a fund of £375million would be made available for businesses hit by the new restrictions.
However, Leon Thompson, executive director of UK Hospitality Scotland, said the money would not be enough to cover the losses.
He said: “Hospitality is likely to lose around £1billion in the course of December, as public heath messaging has hammered trade and threatened jobs and livelihoods.
“Today’s announcement of further restrictions across hospitality businesses will, for many, be the final straw as owners and operators weigh up whether it will be worth remaining open beyond Christmas.
“The financial package is too little and, given no money will reach businesses until some point in January, it will come too late for many businesses.”
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