Coronavirus in Scotland: 'Impossible balance between lives and jobs' over pub closures - Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has said she faced a near “impossible balance” between lives and jobs amid mounting criticism over her decision to close pubs across central Scotland for a fortnight.

Thursday, 8th October 2020, 1:26 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th October 2020, 2:06 pm
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The First Minister told MSPs she “hated” having to impose fresh restrictions in an attempt to stem the rising tide of coronavirus cases in Scotland.

It comes as 1,027 new cases were reported today, with a further five deaths recorded.

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Labour leader Richard Leonard raised concerns over the impact on the country’s hospitality industry, with many warning it could sound the “death knell” for hundreds of bars, while thousands could be laid off.

Pubs in central Scotland have been ordered to close from 6pm tomorrow until 25 October – while those in other areas have told to shut at 6pm and have been banned from serving alcohol.

The SNP leader told MSPs at First Minister’s Questions today the impact of the virus had changed Government decision-making.

“These are not normal times and these are not normal decision making processes,” she said.

"I know how difficult the consequences of these decisions are for businesses and for individuals. I don’t expect these decisions to be welcome or popular. They are tough decisions, but they ultimately have to be made by government.

"Every day right now – and this is my job, I’m not in any way complaining about that – but every day right now we are facing decisions where we literally have lives in one hand and jobs in the other.

"It’s an impossible – almost – balance to strike. We are doing that to the best of our ability.”

The SNP leader said that an announcement will be made tomorrow on how the £40 million of support, which the Scottish Government has earmarked for those firms affected, will be distributed.

“I don’t expect anybody out there being happy with what we’re having to do right now,” she said.

"I do not get up in the morning and decide to close pubs for a policy reason. We are in a global pandemic where we are trying to save lives and balance that with the interests of the economy as best we possibly can.”

Mr Leonard said there should have been greater consultation with the industry and unions, with many licensed trade leaders having spoken yesterday of their shock at the sudden nature of the announcement, just three days before they come into force.

He referred to complaints from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce over a “complete and utter lack of consultation” with businesses. Union leaders also say they were given no advance notice.

"It is clear that this is not just about the decision you have taken – it’s about the way you have taken it,” Mr Leonard said

"All week there were hints that tighter restrictions were coming and all the while those set to be most affected by the restrictions were kept in the dark.

“Businesses have adapted to new rules, businesses who were stocking their fridges and paying for supplies for two weeks of staycation, workers who have followed the guidance to the letter to keep their customers safe and to keep their jobs safe, but now see their jobs on the line.”

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