Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has ordered the closure of all licensed pubs, bars and restaurants for two weeks from this weekend in large parts of Scotland, with a 6pm curfew on indoor dining in other areas.
Announcing the new restrictions in the Scottish parliament, Ms Sturgeon said that she was making £40m available to assist businesses affected by the new restrictions.
But the industry responded with fury, with the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) warning that many small, family-run businesses will not survive the winter.
The SHG’s spokesperson Stephen Montgomery said: “The first minister has effectively signed a death sentence for many businesses across the Scottish hospitality industry, while the real problem is socialising at home.
“The economic cost will be catastrophic for an industry worth £10.6bn to the Scottish economy annually and which employs 285,000 people, many of whom are young Scots under 25. Countless jobs will be lost forever if businesses which are already on their knees are forced to close.”
And CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said the restrictions would come as “a crushing blow for a vital part of the Scottish economy”.
“With many pubs, cafes and restaurants only just getting back on their feet, there is no doubt this latest round of measures will put more jobs and businesses at serious risk," said Ms Black.
The new measures will come into effect from 6pm on Friday 9 October and last through two weeks and three weekends to 25 October, and come as the UK government in London is understood to be considering a similar “circuit breaker” plan.
All licensed premises in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley health board areas – covering the whole of the populous central belt area, including capital Edinburgh – will be closed for both indoor and outdoor operations.
In the rest of the country, indoor hospitality venues will be allowed to operate only between 6am and 6pm daily and will be barred from selling alcoholic drinks.
Outdoor bars, restaurants and cafes outside the five health board areas will be allowed to remain open up until 10pm and will be allowed to sell alcohol up to that time.
People in the central belt of Scotland have been asked to avoid public transport unless absolutely necessary in the next two weeks.
While a travel restriction is not being enforced on people in the central belt, Ms Sturgeon urged those living in these areas not to travel beyond their own health boards.
The First Minister said: “I’m well aware that the measures I have outlined today are disruptive to many businesses – obviously especially hospitality businesses – and they will be unwelcome to many people across the country.
“But although they are significant as they need to be to make an impact, they do not represent a lockdown. In fact they are designed to reduce the likelihood of a future lockdown.
“We’re not requiring people to stay inside all day as we were earlier in the year. Schools will stay open, learning will continue in our universities and colleges, shops will continue to trade, businesses like manufacturing and construction will continue.
“And these new restrictions are intended to last for 16 days, they are intended to be short, sharp action to arrest a worrying increase in infection.”
Despite the recent spike in infections in Scotland, Ms Sturgeon stressed that cases are not rising as quickly as in March, and are currently just 13 per cent of the highest point of the pandemic.
But she warned that without the temporary restrictions there was “a very real risk that the virus will run out of control by the end of this month”.
“With them, we hope to slow down its spread,” she said. “That will help us keep schools and businesses, including hospitality businesses, open over the winter.
“And fundamentally, it will also save lives.”
Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “It should never have come to this.
“Under the SNP government’s watch, Scotland now has the highest R rate in the UK following a complete failure to tackle the spread of the virus. Businesses and livelihoods are now at risk as a result of the SNP’s incompetence.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies