100 top Scots hotels demand Covid rule change in letter to Nicola Sturgeon

One hundred bosses from the biggest and most prestigious hotels in Scotland have written to Nicola Sturgeon demanding changes to controversial new Coronavirus restrictions.

Monday, 12th October 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 12th October 2020, 5:27 pm
The Fairmont Hotel in St Andrews
The Fairmont Hotel in St Andrews

Owners and mangers of the Prestonfield in Edinburgh, Glasgow's One Devonshire Gardens, the Fairmont in St Andrews and Aberdeen's Marcliffe are among the hospitality chiefs who have signed the letter warning that thousands of jobs will be lost without a change in the new rules which came into force on Friday evening.

It came as Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Fergus Ewing warned yesterday that there is no guarantee that pubs and restaurants in central Scotland will reopen after the current fortnight of planned restrictions, prompting an angry reaction from industry chiefs.

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The stricter rules unveiled by the First Minister last Wednesday mean that all pubs and restaurants in the central belt of Scotland, including Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley, have had to close both indoors and outdoors until 25th October.

They also mean that hotels have been banned from selling alcohol in public areas to guests

Now in a letter penned by Jill Chalmers, the Managing Director of Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire and signed by some of the countries leading establishments such as the capital’s George Hotel and the Royal Yacht Britannia, the First Minister is warned that the measure could have a shattering impact on the sector.

“Not being able to sell alcohol in public areas to hotel residents in Scotland negatively impacts their stay and future guests are already starting to cancel their bookings," the letter states.

"This measure in particular is threatening the small thread of revenue – a lifeline for many – which still exists for hotel businesses in Scotland at this difficult time.

“We urge you to reconsider this and allow hotel guests, staying a minimum of one night, to consume alcohol in all settings, not simply room service alone. In addition, we believe that we should be able to serve non-residents until 6pm, as a café is allowed to do.

“If there is no change, we have no doubt that we will suffer deeper losses. We are talking about trying to survive, not about profitability. Without this small change in your policy, there will be thousands more job losses in the coming month.”

Under the new rules, wedding parties already booked in at hotels are able to consume alcohol yet non-wedding guests nearby, staying under the same roof, are unable to.

“You can imagine the pressure on hotel staff, and the potential threats they might face, having to negotiate with different guests over the measures,”the letter goes on.

"It is unreasonable to expect staff to deal with this especially if guests try and join the wedding groups in order to drink alcohol.”

Among the co-signatories are David Barkley, general manager of One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, Monica Ross, general manager of the Carlton George Hotel in Edinburgh, Andrew Thomson, Head of Hospitality at The Royal Yacht Britannia and Paul Bray, area general manager of the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow.

Stewart Spence, owner of The Marcliffe Hotel & Spa in Aberdeenshire has also signed up, along with James Thomson who owns Edinburgh's Prestonfield Hotel and John Keating, area general manager of the Fairmont in St Andrews.

But the Scottish Government said last night the restrictions are needed to prevent a return to the dangerous level of infections experienced earlier this year.

A spokeswoman added: "We know that protecting lives and jobs is a difficult balance and we do not underestimate the challenge that these new measures present for businesses – particularly those in the hospitality sector.

"That is why we have committed £40 million to our new Covid-19 Restrictions Fund to help affected businesses and protect jobs."

Pub and restaurant chiefs in Scotland say they must not not be “left in limbo” over the latest Covid shutdown after being warned by Mr Ewing there is no guarantee they will reopen in a fortnight.

Asked if he could guarantee that pubs which have been closed across central Scotland could reopen in a fortnight as previously indicated, Mr Ewing told BBC Scotland's Politics Scotland he was "wary about guaranteeing things in politics."

He added: "I certainly can't guarantee that in this case. I'm acutely aware of the impact on business. That's why we have brought forward the package of (support) measures."

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, said that businesses cannot be “kept in the dark” about potential changes.

“This second shutdown has caused significant economic loss to businesses, and an immeasurable amount of stress and worry for hospitality operators and staff,” she said.

"We understand the tough position decision-makers are in, but the sector cannot just be left in limbo.

"The Scottish Government should be straight with industry and the public by publishing the parameters on which they would not allow the sector to reopen now. This would give an indicator as to the progress we’re making against the virus and would allow a limited degree of forward planning by business. The sector is determined to support the collective effort against this virus, but we can’t be kept in the dark until the last minute – it’s not fair to operators or the thousands of staff whose livelihoods are at stake.”

Scottish Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Liz Cameron, added: “Hospitality businesses in the central belt face collapse if these current restrictions are extended beyond the initial two week period,” he said.

“We understand that tackling the spread of COVID-19 must be a top priority for government, but return to trading is essential to prevent the economy unravelling. To do this we need to return to trading safely while the virus remains with us into the medium term."

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