Politics

Nicola Sturgeon shamed as crippling economic impact of Scotland’s Covid rules laid bare

Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon skewered over Covid rules

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On December 21, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a range of rules were being introduced that would thwart New Year’s celebrations in a desperate attempt to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. It saw a limit of 100 people at indoor standing events, up to 200 people at indoor seated events and up to 500 people, either seated or standing, at outdoor events. Pubs, restaurants and other outdoor public settings were also once again slapped with heavy restrictions.

At pubs, restaurants and other outdoor public settings, only table service was allowed where alcohol was served, while indoor hospitality and leisure venues had to ensure a one-metre social distance between different groups.

There could be no more than three households in any one group of people. Nightclubs also had to close, although they could remain open provided they operated as a pub with table service and distancing.

But the huge economic impact from those restrictions has been brutally laid bare, costing the crucial hospitality and business sectors tens of millions of pounds.

Karl Thompson, an economist for the Centre for Economics and Business Research, told Express.co.uk: “Using projected turnover data by industry, we expect that the regulations on table service will have cost the Scottish hospitality industry £6million in the first 17 days of January, with the closure of nightclubs implying a further £5.4million loss.

“These costs come on top of a hit to the sector of an estimated £28million as a result of in Omicron-driven cautiousness so far this month.

“Meanwhile, the capacity limits set for certain events is estimated to have cost Scottish businesses £4.5million in turnover so far this month, on top of a £13.4million Omicron hit.

“While we expect that the Omicron hit in Scotland has been broadly proportional to that seen across the UK, these additional costs are clearly specific to the nation.

“For reference, total Scottish business turnover is roughly £19billion per month.”

On December 21, CBI Scotland warned the latest rules would leave hospitality, leisure and events businesses “reeling after working tirelessly to claw back two years of lost takings”.

A spokesperson said: “Once again the economy’s hardest-hit sectors are being asked to carry the can for protecting public health, yet are not being adequately compensated for restrictions that will clearly put operations and livelihoods at risk.

“While the announcement of further business support is welcome, it represents a drop in the ocean when compared with usual takings at this all-important time of year.

“What support is available must get out to those who need it most as soon as possible – particularly with so little time before devastating restrictions come into force.

“The ambition must be to learn to live with the virus whilst keeping the economy open. Instead the measures announced today effectively close down significant parts of industry at the worst possible time.”

On Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon is expected to announce an easing of the Covid restrictions in Scotland in what will be a welcome relief for millions of people.

She will chair a cabinet meeting in the morning before updating the Scottish parliament about the Government’s plans later in the afternoon.

The First Minister told the PA news agency on Monday: “I think everybody wants to see Covid end so it follows that everybody – me included – wants to see all restrictions end. I’m not going to pre-empt my statement tomorrow.

“I think what Mark Drakeford set out last week is broadly in line with what I set out earlier last week. They are lifting restrictions over a two-week period.

“Today the restriction on outdoor large-scale events is lifted (in Scotland).

“I hope we’ll be able to follow the trajectory I set out last week when I make my statement tomorrow, but the cabinet needs to look at all of the up-to-date data tomorrow and come to decisions.”

She added: “Looking at that data right now, we’ve got reasons to continue to be cautiously optimistic that we’re turning the corner on this Omicron wave.

“That’s because people have responded magnificently, they’ve behaved in a way that’s helped stem to some extent the transmission of Omicron and we took sensible, balanced, proportionate steps.

“So we’re in a better position than I feared we would be before Christmas. But there’s still a need for caution because the health service, for example, continues to be under very, very acute pressure.”

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