My Column

I rekon tiers are worth it in hospitality

  • Date: Monday 2nd November 2020
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Time with friends and extended family is something we have all been missing. Restrictions on meeting others inside our homes, and the closure of pubs and restaurants across large areas of the country, means many of us have gone weeks without enjoying the company of our loved ones.

Thankfully, for many in Scotland, that could be about to change as the new five-tier system comes into effect. I’m sure many breathed a sigh of relief when the new framework was announced, not least those working within the hospitality industry who rightly or wrongly have had to close their doors over the past three weeks.

The new rules governing hospitality come into effect today and will mean that pubs and restaurants in areas of Scotland at the lowest alert tier will be able to serve alcohol indoors again. Licensed premises in level two of the country’s five-tier system will be permitted to serve alcohol with a meal indoors until 20:00. In level three, businesses can open until 18:00 as long as no alcohol is sold.

This limited freedom to trade will be a welcome return for many businesses across the central belt that have been closed since October 9. However, many in the hospitality industry will surely question why it has taken so long for the Scottish Government to draw up this plan. Not least those business owners who have been forced to let staff go.

If you’re like me then you’ll agree that sharing a meal helps bring people together. The safest place to do that at the moment is undoubtedly within controlled hospitality settings, where health and safety guidance can be implemented.

Pubs and restaurants have been fantastic at adapting to restrictions, introducing a range of measurers to keep both customers and staff safe. Face masks and track and trace details on entering are now the norm. Socially distanced tables, Perspex screens, meticulous cleaning and card only payments systems are to be expected. 

A UK Hospitality survey found that transmissions rates in hospitality businesses were extremely low across the 14 weeks that business have been open, with just 780 Covid-19 customer cases across 250 million guest visits. That translates to a rate of just 0.0003 per cent of all customer visits.

With transmission rates lower than in care homes, school, workplaces and hospitals, I’d say that the hospitality sector has been given a raw deal. Since March, pubs and restaurants have effectively been closed for 20 weeks and have only been trading for 12 weeks. No other sector has faced this level of sacrifice.

While some within the hospitality industry will argue the new five-tier system will over complicate things, it will put an end to the farcical reality of a café being permitted to open while a restaurant next door is stopped from trading. This had led to a number of court actions centering on whether establishments could be categorised as cafes or restaurants.

Eusebi’s Deli in Glasgow became the first proprietor in Scotland to secure an interim interdict allowing the business to stay open after persuading a sheriff it is being run as a cafe. Italian firm Sartis and popular pancake chain Stack and Still soon followed suit, and good on them.

The restrictions placed on hospitality has also prompted restaurants to host peaceful protests. Buck’s Bar in Glasgow opened its doors to the public and saw at least 60 customers take up its offer of free food last week. Police attended, but were content that no laws had been broken as the food was complimentary, and guests, who were two to a table, were either all from the same household or in a social distancing bubble.

Enjoyment of food, music and social interaction are key to maintaining good mental health in society, but unfortunately the government has deemed that in a time of Covid, they’re amongst the most high risk activities we could take part in. Looking at the UK Hospitality survey figures, I’m not so sure.

In theory the new tiered restrictions will be more proportionate and allow businesses to operate according to the rate of infection in their area. Let’s hope so, as there are people’s livelihoods and health at risk here.


Side: 285

It is a very challenging time for the UK’s oil and gas industry.

The sector has been rocked by the outbreak of COVID-19, with lockdown and ongoing restrictions triggering a decline in energy demand.

New figures released last week by Oil and Gas UK found that the number of people working offshore in the North Sea fell by more than a third since the start of the coronavirus lockdown. A halt in drilling and engineering construction are being blamed for the sudden loss of 4,000 jobs.

The figures lay bare the impact on employment, highlighting that the average weekly workforce dropped from 11,000 to 7,000, during March.

OGUK said it would be next year before it could fully quantify the impact of COVID-19. However, I find the initial indications worrying.

Thankfully the Government’s job retention scheme played a role in protecting the jobs of offshore workers. However, as we all know, this benefit is finite.

I hope that the Government will work with regulators and industry members to protect jobs in this sector after the scheme comes to an end.

Over the last few decades, the North Sea has become the centre of one of the world’s most productive energy industries.

Many of these jobs could also be valuable in the transition to a lower carbon economy, as we strive to achieve a global net zero.

In an industry used to the highs and lows of economic and commodity price cycles, 2020 has posed a completely new challenge to oil and gas companies.

The situation is constantly changing at the moment, but I hope that jobs can be retained and oil and gas companies can emerge stronger and remain competitive in the wake of Covid-19.


Laugh: 132

Halloween was certainly different to usual this year, but I’m delighted that so many still managed to celebrate the event in a safe manner. 

I was happy to see that the annual Battlefield’s Window Wonderland went ahead as usual in Glasgow - and I greatly enjoyed looking at all of the weird and wonderful creations.

Residents transformed the streets into an outdoor gallery that was completely COVID safe, with witches, ghosts, skeletons and more adorning the windows of locals’ homes.

There were even some messages of positivity, with one homeowner writing ‘good things are coming’ in their window display.

It’s events like this that keep us smiling during a difficult period and allow us to look forward to a time when things will improve.

Well done to Battlefield Community Project for organising.

Weep: 131

It’s deeply upsetting to see the impact that the pandemic is having on young people.

Lockdown has highlighted a growing disparity between children from deprived backgrounds and their more privileged peers.

First it was the Scottish exams fiasco earlier in the year and now a survey by the London School of Economics (LSE) found that a quarter of pupils - some 2.5 million children - had no schooling or tutoring during lockdown.

But, the study adds, nearly three quarters of private school pupils had full days of teaching - almost twice the proportion of state school pupils.

I fear that the impact of the pandemic could have a lasting effect and affect the future of many young Scots. We need to do more to protect their development, education and mental health.



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