Nicola Sturgeon: Threat of legal action by pubs not changing tier advice

The threat of legal action by Scotland’s hospitality industry is not influencing the development of the new lockdown tier system and how pubs and restaurants will be affected by it, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Last week five industry bodies joined together to start proceedings towards a judicial review of the Scottish Government’s emergency Covid legislation, and demanded the evidence on which decisions made to close hospitality businesses be revealed.

Rising Covid cases have seen the whole Central Belt close pubs and restaurants. However, the new level system, unveiled on Friday and due to be debated in Holyrood tomorrow, would see the same businesses able to stay open even if Covid cases are at the level they are now – as long as they don’t serve alcohol.

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Scottish hospitality sector starts legal action over Covid restrictions
A legal threat by the hospitality industry to government restrictions is not influencing policy decisions, it was claimed.

Asked if that change was a result of the government considering the threat of legal action, Ms Sturgeon denied it.

"We have to take decisions on what we think is necessary to protect people from a virus – I wish we could take legal action against the virus, but we can’t, so we have to take the best possible decisions,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“We live under the rule of law and we have emergency laws in place just now and I don’t criticise anyone if they think they’ve got a reason to test the position in the courts, but it doesn't change the reality of what we’re living with.”

She added: “We’re having discussions with the hospitality sector. At the moment under level three we’ve suggested alcohol may not be permitted in hospitality settings, but premises serving food could be subject to restricted opening times and that’s likely to mean substantial meals rather than snacks. But that’s something we’re discussing with the hospitality sector as we finalise these things over the next period.”

Ms Sturgeon admitted the daily briefings had become “grim”.

She said: “We’ve got to keep a degree of flexibility in response to this virus, because it’s flexible in how it spreads, so we don’t want to be too rigid, but we want consistency although the detail of these levels may change.”

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