Richard Leonard takes tough line on new Scottish hospitality restrictions

Richard Leonard has taken a tough line on newly announced coronavirus restrictions and declared that the SNP need to stop treating the hospitality sector like “Sodom and Gomorrah”.

The Scottish Labour leader heavily criticised the new measures announced by Nicola Sturgeon in a speech to the Scottish parliament today, which would include a temporary ban on the sale of all alcohol indoors.

His comments compare to the ‘constructive opposition‘ from Keir Starmer who asked the UK government today to publish the scientific evidence behind its 10pm curfew rule, but has not said whether the party would vote against the measure.

Reacting to the First Minister’s statement in the chamber this afternoon, Scottish Labour leader Leonard said: “The Scottish hospitality sector is not Sodom and Gomorrah and should not be treated as such.

“Why doesn’t the First Minister consider closing down those businesses which are not complying with guidance, instead of shutting down every single business, serving 70% of the population, including those which are fully complying?

“Where is the evidence that Covid is spreading in all hospitality settings to warrant a blanket ban on all of these establishments? Can the First Minister explain the terms of the review after the initial 16 days?

“And can the First Minister outline how the £40m mitigation the government is proposing for those hospitality businesses forced to shut down will be distributed? If she’s going to have a consultation, will she speak to the trade unions?

“And will she take into account that every single worker, as well as every single business, should be covered for all of their losses – including those young workers, many of whom are on minimum hours or zero-hours contracts?”

Commenting on the rules, Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray added: “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.

“The SNP took too long to set up test and protect and ignored warnings about the return of students to university. Businesses and livelihoods are now at risk as a result of the SNP’s incompetence.

“While public health is the priority, people’s jobs must now be protected and there is an urgent need for both the UK and Scottish governments to put their differences aside and work together on the economic impact.”

Sturgeon announced the collection of new coronavirus restrictions after Scotland saw a significant rise in the number of Covid cases, with the country recording over 5,500 cases last week.

Under this latest rule change, pubs and restaurants will not be allowed to serve any alcohol indoors for 16 days from this Friday, but they can serve food and non-alcoholic drinks to customers from 6am to 6pm.

£40m has been made available by the Scottish government to help support any businesses who will have to close or reduce their trade as a result of the new set of coronavirus-related restrictions.

In five badly-hit areas in the central belt of Scotland, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, all licensed premises with the exception of hotels will have to close both indoor and outdoor service across the period.

Leonard’s criticism of the new rules today sets a different tone to his UK counterpart in Westminster, with Starmer stressing Labour’s approach as generally supportive of new Covid restrictions introduced by the government.

The UK Labour leader backed the new Covid measures unveiled by the government in mid-September as “necessary” but criticised the Prime Minister for ignoring prior warnings and described the restrictions as “not inevitable”.

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