Last orders at the bar?

As we try to adapt to our latest layer of restrictions, I find myself questioning the basis for them as well as the wisdom behind them.

If there is evidence that hospitality settings are spreading the virus, why is it not being publicly shared? If the SNP is so confident these measures will work, rather than simply driving people into each other’s homes to socialise, why won’t they open it up to debate at Holyrood? Instead, we have been presented with a series of decrees and the rollercoaster of 2020 hits another low.

What consultation has there been with representatives from the sectors that are being systematically shutting down and destroyed? A full 48 hours after bars, pubs and restaurants were forced to close completely across the Central Belt, there is no indication of how the £40million relief fund is to be administered, or who will qualify to apply for it.

My husband is a chef at a hotel here in the Lothians, they had been fully booked until the end of October and beyond. Since the new restrictions were announced last week, they have been hit with a wave of cancellations: who really wants to stay at a luxury resort when they will essentially be confined to barracks after 6pm and not even permitted a glass of wine with their evening meal?

As the hotel hasn’t been forced to close, we can assume they won’t qualify for any relief, but they are now looking at running at a loss until the restrictions are lifted, a situation that is obviously unsustainable.

A huge amount of money, time and effort has been put into making bars, cafes and restaurants across the UK COVID secure and there is simply no evidence to show that this horrible disease is being spread in these settings more than any other, so why target them?

It is the knock-on effects throughout the sector that will be most keenly felt by businesses who haven’t been given the time to recover after the initial lockdown. It is the ecosystem of supply that will be broken again, the experienced staff and owners that will simply have to walk away and start again.

As we head into a long, dark winter, there is no doubt we need to do more to prevent numbers rising if at all possible, but that is why there should be an effective test & trace system in place by now and why plans to protect the most vulnerable in our society should have been widely publicised.

The effects on mental health for all of us are starting to weigh heavily and as we plunge on in uncertainty, never knowing if our own sector is next for the chop, I would ask who it is that our government speaks for now.

It’s not those in education who have been failed time and again with the shambles over first the exam results, then the chaotic return to university, and now the further cancelling of National 5 exams.

It’s not those in care homes who still aren’t being given access to regular testing or adequate PPE.

And it’s not those in theatres, clubs, indoor sports facilities, soft play centres and now hospitality who are powerless to prove they can operate safely and whose chances of reopening when it is deemed safe are vanishing with every day that passes.

This is real life, this is real people’s lives, and there must come a point where we are allowed to live, or at least be able to question how our lives are being governed.

Sally Pattle


West Lothian Liberal Democrats

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