Coronavirus in Scotland: All cafes will be allowed to stay open after clarification

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has been urged to clarify why cafes can be exempt from the hospitality shutdown if they stop selling alcohol but pubs and restaurants are unable to do the same.

Thursday, 8th October 2020, 9:46 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th October 2020, 11:13 pm
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 07: Members of the public are seen sitting in a cafe on October 7, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland. New restrictions aimed at slowing a surge in coronavirus cases are to be announced by Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 07: Members of the public are seen sitting in a cafe on October 7, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland. New restrictions aimed at slowing a surge in coronavirus cases are to be announced by Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Pubs, restaurants and cafes in Scotland will be barred from selling alcohol indoors from Friday for 16 days, while in five health board areas pubs and restaurants are being forced to close entirely except for takeaways.

Nicola Sturgeon has now confirmed that cafes in those five areas – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley – can stay open if they do not serve alcohol.

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Ms Freeman told MSPs the measures are a “balance” and “targeted at those situations where the virus has the best chance of moving from one person to another”.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

Asked to explain why pubs and restaurants in the affected central belt areas cannot be excluded, she said it is a “balance” aimed at clear public messaging and curbing the spread of Covid-19.

Ms Freeman said: “We have to balance what we need to do in order to interrupt the progression of this virus with clarity of communication that is clear for the public to follow.

“That is why we have taken the steps we take, there is never – trust me – a perfect balance in all of this.”

‘Catastrophic’ for hospitality

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said although the Tories reluctantly support the new restrictions, they will be “catastrophic” for the hospitality sector and its supply chains.

Mr Cameron said: “Given the need for compliance and buy-in from the public, it’s imperative that there is clarity about what people can and cannot do.

“Further confusion has arisen today over whether cafes with alcohol licences can open. And if they can’t, how do you define a cafe versus a restaurant versus a pub?

“The SNP Government must clear this confusion up because business owners need to know whether they can open in two days’ time.”

Calling for more details about the £40 million of Scottish Government support announced on Wednesday, he added: “The measures outlined are not easy and they are not desirable and they raise more questions than answers.

“We have to ensure that our pubs, bars and restaurants are closed for the shortest times – these businesses are on the edge.

“They’ve already been hit hard by this pandemic and these measures will only add to that hardship. It’s right they receive financial support and clarity around that is needed.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie, who asked Ms Sturgeon about the exemption for cafes at First Minister’s Questions, argued that businesses and workers should not be “suffering due to the Scottish Government’s lack of foresight”.

Ms Baillie added: “This clarification from the First Minister will come as a relief to many business owners and workers across Scotland and, particularly, in those areas with additional restrictions.

“This comes less than 24 hours after cafes with licences were told they would need to close completely.

“So whilst I welcome this about-turn, it does seem obvious that the First Minister did not take businesses and workers into account when drawing up these latest restrictions.”

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