Scotland’s leading live music, dance club and entertainment operators are set to commence legal action against the country’s Government over the legal restrictions currently imposed upon hospitality and night-time economy businesses.
Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) Scotland said COVID-19 restrictions are no longer justifiable and it intends to proceed with a judicial review challenging the validity of the laws set via the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020.
NTIA Scotland, which represents independent bar, nightclub and restaurant owners, pubs, festival and live music event operators, said that while it has been supportive of the Scottish Government’s actions with regard to public health, the roll-out of the vaccination programme and huge decline in cases, hospitalisations and deaths means restrictions meant to be emergency and temporary measures “are no longer justifiable or proportionate”.
NTIA claims the rules – which include a ban on alcohol being served indoors – are in breach of Article 1 of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which applies in the UK by virtue of the Human Rights Act 1998.
The group said continued restrictions on capacity, activities and operating hours as well as “wholly inadequate” compensation for operating losses means numerous businesses face closure with 39,000 jobs at risk.
Gavin Stevenson, vice-chair of NTIA Scotland, said: “It is with an extraordinary sense of disappointment and frustration that we have commenced legal action against the Scottish Government. While Scottish Government Ministers have repeatedly paid lip service to the concept of consultation with the late night, music, culture, and licensed trade sectors, in reality there has been no meaningful consultation throughout the pandemic and little if any objective assessment regarding the balance of the four harms in many months.
“Any objective assessment would require the rapidly decreasing risks from coronavirus to be weighed against the existential threat that such measures represent to businesses, livelihoods, and employment. While also taking into account the consequential and foreseeable impact on wellbeing and mental health of business owners, employees and customers. It is clear such assessment is sorely lacking.
“Given the success of the vaccine programme and enormous damage being inflicted on Scottish businesses and their employees, the reluctance of Scottish Government to engage with our sector on a framework for full reopening appears little short of negligent, and the failure of government to adequately consider the harms being done to the economy, livelihoods, employment, and mental health is inexcusable.”
The NTIA said it has retained the services of TLT Solicitors and the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop QC, to argue its case in court at the earliest practical opportunity.
“Hospitality businesses typically operate on wafer thin profit margins, as little as five per cent, while these restrictions can result in businesses suffering such immense declines in income that bankruptcy will be the inevitable result if they continue for much longer,” an NTIA spokesperson added.
“Fixed costs such as rent, insurance, staff furlough costs, etc, have far exceeded the income coming in from revenue and grants, resulting in the typical small business owner in our sector incurring around £150,000 in covid related debt per premises, which represents many years’ worth of normal profits.”