South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called on the Scottish Government to provide more support for indoor soft play providers, who have been forced to remain closed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Soft play centres were shut across the UK in March and the provisional re-opening date in Scotland of 14 September was shelved indefinitely as virus cases began to rise again.
However, indoor play centres re-opened in Wales on 10 August, in England on 15 August and in Northern Ireland on 14 September with no detectable impact on the spread of COVID-19. It is estimated there are 145 indoor centres across Scotland, employing around 4,500 people, with dozens of centres in South Scotland.
Colin Smyth met with soft play centre owners and staff from South Scotland at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday (23 September) to discuss their concerns.
The local MSP said: “Soft play and indoor play centres closed like every other business during the initial lockdown but six months down the line, owners and staff are understandably feeling very worried about what the future holds.
“Earlier in the pandemic, when lockdown measures were starting to be eased, the Scottish Government faced choices about what to open and when. They made the choice that soft play centres should remain closed in Scotland, although they are now open in every other part of the UK. Given this decision, the Scottish Government needs to urgently consider what extra support can be provided to those centres. In these difficult times, without that support these centres could permanently close.
“The sector desperately needs support and it desperately needs that support now. Many of these facilities have not been able to access any of the financial help available to businesses and other third sector organisations.
“At a time when our children are facing part of their childhood growing up in the shadow of this pandemic, the benefits of play on mental and physical health are more important than ever.
“It will be disastrous for this sector if the government does not recognise the urgency of the crisis they are facing, and this means providing soft play centres with the support they badly need.”