A body representing night time economy businesses – which is suing the Scottish Government – has said the sector has been “left in limbo” over reopening due to a lack of clarity on dates from the Scottish Government.
Ahead of the First Minister announcing further easing of restrictions on Tuesday, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) Scotland has called for more certainty for the sector.
NTIA Scotland has previously launched legal action against the Scottish Government, which it says is proceeding “at pace”, over the emergency coronavirus legislation put in place last year.
NTIA Scotland chairman, Mike Grieve, said: “As our neighbours south of the border prepare to unlock and remove all restrictions within the coming weeks, in Scotland we remain stuck in perpetual limbo with still no indicative date for reopening or even an outline of the conditions which will allow nightlife to restart.
“We again ask the Scottish Government to work with us directly and urgently on establishing a constructive path towards the unrestricted reopening of the culturally important and economically valuable night time economy sector and to save the thousands of jobs currently at risk.
“Meantime, our legal action continues to gather support as we await a full response from Scottish Government legal representatives.”
The body also urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to hold a “crisis summit” with the sector to find solutions before 39,000 jobs are lost – according to NTIA research.
The First Minister said she was open to the idea, telling the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh: “We’ll be happy to talk, as we have done on an ongoing basis, to any group in any sector.
“Specifically on culture… we’ll shortly be announcing additional an £40 million of funding which is going to allow Creative Scotland to run a second round of the cultural organisations and venues recovery fund and also the performing arts relief fund.
“The purpose of that will be to help eligible organisations that didn’t receive funding in the first round so there is some further financial support that’s coming very shortly.”
Vice chairman Gavin Stevenson said: “For thousands of hard-pressed, night-time economy businesses being bankrupted by the commercially unviable levels system, May 17 is a reopening in name only.
“While people in England can now hug and kiss friends and family, and huge music festivals are being sold out this summer, people in Scotland are forced to revert to two-metre social distancing even to listen to an acoustic musician at Level 0 in the restrictions system.”
Speaking at the briefing on Tuesday, the First Minister announced that pool and snooker halls would be able to open from Monday, after previous plans considering them to be on the same level as nightclubs.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar had said he would take up the issue for such venues and speak to the First Minister, but hours later the announcement of the changes was made.
“The snooker and pool hall owners have really suffered from the Covid ban,” Mr Sarwar said.
He added: “So today’s change of heart from the Scottish Government is good news. I’m pleased the government has recognised the logic and validity of the snooker and pool owners’ campaign.”
Brian Links, who owns two Glasgow-based pool and snooker venues – and led a campaign with more than 30 other clubs – said: “We have campaigned for a long time to have snooker and pool halls given a decent break under Covid rules in the same way as pubs, restaurants and casinos.
“But we feared that although casinos would open snooker halls would still be banned.
“So we welcome the Scottish Government’s change of mind. Although to be honest we could say it’s not before time that the anomaly blighting snooker and pool was ended.”