Nicola Sturgeon urged to lift bookshop ban in areas with toughest restrictions

Nicola Stugeon is being urged to overturn a ban on independent bookshops being allowed to open in areas with the toughest coronavirus restrictions.

Nicola Sturgeon has regularly spoken of her love of reading books as a distraction from navigating the country through the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon has regularly spoken of her love of reading books as a distraction from navigating the country through the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Getty Images

Leading authors, publishers and booksellers are calling on the First Minister to treat bookshops the same as garden centres, pet food shops, hardwear and homewear stores, off-licences and bike shops.

They are all allowed to remain open in areas which have been placed in “Level 4” of the Scottish Government’s five-tier system of restrictions, including Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire, Stirling and West Lothian. However bookshops have been ruled to be “non-essential” retailers under the current restrictions are are due to remain in place until at least 11 December.

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Ms Sturgeon, who staged a virtual tour of her own bookshelves during Scotland’s annual week-long celebration of reading last month, is being asked to intervene to help give bookshops which were shut for months earlier this year when the whole country was in lockdown a “fighting chance” to get through the winter.

Sally Pattle is manager of the West Lothian bookshop Far From The Madding Crowd.

Alexander McCall Smith, Stuart Cosgrove, James Robertson, Sue Lawrence and Graeme MacRae Burnett and publishers Birlinn, Saraband and Pan McMilan are among more than 40 signatories to an open letter to the First Minister.

Others include The Booksellers Association, chains like Waterstones and Blackwells and shops like Far From The Madding Crowd, in Linlithgow, West Lothian, which was named one of the best independent bookshops in Britain earlier this year.

The open letter to the First Minister has been instigated by Far From The Madding Crowd’s owner, Sally Pattle.

She said: "The mental, physical and emotional stresses of this year are really starting to take their toll and the thought of trying to navigate a further lockdown in January following the recently announced relaxation of restrictions over Christmas is almost too much to bear.

The owner of the Far From The Madding Crowd bookshop in Linlithgow has instigated the open letter to the First Minister.

"I am afraid that not all bookshops will survive this crisis and we would all be poorer for that.”

The open letter to the First Minister states: “You have often spoken of your love of books and the importance you place on reading for pleasure or as a source of comfort.

“Bookshops and booksellers exist to enable that process and provide readers with a safe space in which to find their next literary adventure.

"As we enter the long, dark winter months, we are asking for you to give bookshops special consideration and allow them to remain open.

“Books and reading provide comfort and joy, and this year of all years, we all deserve a bit of that. All we’re asking for is a fighting chance to get through this, so we can carry on enriching the Scottish literary environment."

A government spokesman said: “Every decision we take has sole objective of trying to keep the country as safe as possible to get it through what we hope is now the final stage of the pandemic, with as few lives lost and as little harm to health – and, indeed, as little harm to the overall economy – as possible.

“Clearly, if we do not properly control the virus, the damage to the economy becomes worse, and the effects will be even longer lasting.

“We know how difficult the last few months have been for bookshops and their staff, and we are doing everything we can with the powers we have to help.”

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