£100m for businesses as public urged to curb Christmas socialising

FM asks people to limit social contact over the festive season – though this is not a legal requirement

THE first minister has urged the general public to “minimise” their socialising with other households before and after Christmas in order to slow the spread of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament today (14th December) Nicola Sturgeon said she was asking the public to avoid socialising in groups from more than three households “either at home or in indoor public places”. The household limit will not be a legal requirement at this time, but Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was asking the public “to cut down as far as possible the number of people outside of our own households that we are interacting with just now”.

Hospitality businesses will also be expected to have measures in place “to avoid crowding at bars and between tables and a reminder of the requirement to collect contact details of customers to help with contact tracing”.

Guidance for businesses will be published later in the week.

Acknowledging that the statement – which follows similar advice from Public Health Scotland to cancel or postpone Christmas parties – would impact on businesses, the first minister announced a £100 million fund for companies in the hospitality, food supply and culture sectors.

“With considerable difficulty we have managed to identify within our own resources around £100m that we will use to help businesses, mainly in hospitality and food supply – and in the culture sector – affected by our advice last week on work Christmas parties and further affected by what I have said today,” said Sturgeon.

“The finance secretary and her officials will be engaging with affected sectors immediately to consult on and confirm the details of support.

“We’ll work to make money available as soon as possible. Businesses that previously received support through the Strategic Framework Business Fund will be contacted directly.”

She added that the fund “does not go far enough in compensating businesses for what we are asking of them now – and, of course, no government can rule out having to go further in the weeks ahead”.

Meanwhile, chancellor Rishi Sunak has said additional funding would be made available to the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations in the coming days.