South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has accused the Scottish Government of using the hospitality sector as a scapegoat during the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to huge job losses in a sector which is vital to the economy.
The local MSP has also said hospitality has seriously suffered from inadequate Government support and the ‘imposition’ of continually changing restrictions that are rarely backed up by evidence from the Government and are often contradictory. He has renewed his call for regulations closing non-food pubs under level 2 Covid-19 restrictions to be axed as a matter of urgency.
Speaking during a debate on Covid-19 support for the sector in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, Colin Smyth said: “The Scottish Government has used Scotland’s hospitality sector as a scapegoat in this pandemic.
“The Government has failed to recognise the scale of the contribution that our third biggest employer makes to Scotland’s economy, providing over a quarter of a million jobs and adding £6.5 billion to our economy.
“Hospitality was the first sector pushed into lockdown and it will be the last to have the grip of that lockdown loosened.
“It has suffered a disproportionate level of job losses due to inadequate Government support and the imposition of continually changing restrictions that are rarely backed up by evidence from the Government and are often contradictory.”
For weeks, Colin Smyth has been calling for regulations closing non-food pubs under level 2 Covid-19 restrictions to be axed as a matter of urgency.
Three weeks ago, the Scottish Government’s new COVID-19 Strategic Framework stated that in areas covered by level 2 restrictions, pubs could serve alcohol with a main meal, and also in beer gardens outside. Under the framework, pubs that didn’t serve food – so called “wet pubs”- would also be allowed to remain open in level 2 areas but only sell soft drinks inside and alcohol outside.
However, the Scottish Government changed their stance and published regulations to enforce the new framework which meant ALL pubs had to close from 2 November unless they sold food.
Colin Smyth continued: “How dare the cabinet secretary say that he is concerned about pub closures when it is his regulations that are closing pubs, contradicting what the Government said in the chamber just the day before?
“No wonder the sector has been forced into the unprecedented step of taking the Government to court as it fights to save the sector.
“We know that these restrictions are likely to go on indefinitely and it is vital the Scottish Government rethinks regulations and change their new laws to give those pubs the chance to open, as their so-called framework said they could happen in the first place.”