Industry launches legal action against hospitality restrictions

Five trade groups join forces in ‘battle to save the sector’

FIVE of Scotland’s hospitality industry trade groups have joined forces to launch a legal action against restrictions imposed on the sector by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA), Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), UK Hospitality (Scotland), the Scottish Hospitality Group and the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) Scotland have united to challenge the measures imposed on bars, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs.

The groups served the Scottish Government with the pre-action letter yesterday morning (October 21) after receiving an opinion by legal expert Aidan O’Neill QC advising that a judicial review would be warranted. First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that current restrictions on hospitality businesses – the closure of central belt licensed premises and a ‘ban’ on the sale of alcohol inside premises elsewhere in Scotland – which came into force on October 9 would remain in place for a further week until Monday November 2 when the Scottish Government plans to introduce a new “level system” similar to the tier system now in place in England.

The letter requests a response to legal challenges from the Scottish Government by 4pm on Wednesday October 28, failing which matters could move forward with a petition for judicial review.

In a joint statement, the groups’ spokesperson Paul Waterson said: “It is with regret that we now commence with this first stage in the legal process.

“We understand and entirely support the goal of suppressing the virus, but our sector is at breaking point.

“Despite having more mitigation measures than other sectors and the vast majority of operators going above and beyond in ensuring customer safety, our sector has been repeatedly targeted without consultation and without the evidence.

“Anecdotal evidence is not the way to go about making government decisions and the sector should not be used as a balance to uncontrollable risks in other far less regulated and unmonitored sectors.

“Evidence just published in Northern Ireland clearly states that the closure of hospitality only has an ‘0.1-0.2 impact on the R number’ and that the lockdown there has been brought about to ensure behavioural and policy compliance in other areas, effectively confirming that the hospitality industry has been held up as the sacrificial lamb.

“The economic support offered to premises doesn’t come close to compensating the businesses and means jobs are being lost and livelihoods ruined.

“Any measures must be proportionate and be backed up by evidence, we do not believe that is the case here.

“The industry simply cannot endure the extension of the current restrictions, further restrictive measures expected from November 2 or get into a stop start situation.

“The battle is now on to save the hospitality sector.”