Hospitality sector begins legal challenge over Scottish Government restrictions

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The Scottish Government is facing a legal challenge over the restrictions it has imposed on the hospitality and night life sectors.

The Night Time Industries Scotland trade body has announced it is launching legal action to end restrictions such as limits on venue capacity and opening hours.

The group argues the curbs are “no longer justifiable or proportionate”, and claims their continuation would be a breach of the Human Rights Act.

Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop QC, will lead the legal challenge and he is seeking a judicial review about whether the measures are still valid.

“Scottish Government support has been wholly inadequate to compensate for operating losses and a majority of businesses have now incurred unsustainable debt as a result.

“Even worse, all strategic framework funding has now ended while there is no end date for the restrictions that make these businesses commercially unviable.

“39,000 jobs are now at risk as a direct result.”

It describes social distancing as “toxic for businesses across numerous sectors of the economy”, including restaurants, pubs and bars, wedding suppliers, music venues, nightclubs, coach tours and the wider travel and tourism industry.

While accepting the restrictions were necessary earlier in the pandemic, the statement adds: “Thanks to the heroic efforts of our NHS workers, vaccine researchers and scientists, and the immensely successful rollout of the vaccine, Covid-19 no longer presents the threat to public health that it did even a few short months ago.

“All those at serious risk of hospitalisation or mortality have now been offered a vaccine, and take-up rates have been well above expectations with almost all of JCVI groups 1-9 now vaccinated.

“These groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from Covid-19 and the results of vaccination are startlingly effective.”

Cafes, beer gardens, non-essential shops and museums reopened in Scotland on Monday as the country moved from Level 4 to Level 3 of the Scottish Government’s five tiers of restrictions.

Drinkers at pub
Pubs are currently only allowed to sell alcohol in their outdoor areas (Andrew Milligan/PA)

People are now able to meet others for a meal or drink, with up to six people from two households allowed to socialise indoors in a public place such as a cafe or restaurant.

Six people from up to six households can meet outside.

The Scottish Government’s current roadmap out of lockdown should see further restrictions eased on May 17 to allow up to four people from two households to socialise in a home and six people from up to three households in an indoors public space.

A maximum of eight people from up to eight households could then socialise outdoors.

Cinemas, theatres, concert halls, music venues, comedy clubs, amusement arcades and bingo halls will be allowed to open from that date, with indoor and outdoor events resuming but with capacity limits.

Closing times for hospitality would also be extended to 10.30pm indoors.

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