Coronavirus: Fiona Hyslop says business reopening plan is ‘plain as day’

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Fiona Hyslop faced questions over the clarity of the Scottish government’s lockdown route map

Scotland’s economy secretary has insisted the government’s route map out of lockdown is “plain as day” on when businesses can re-open.

Fiona Hyslop said ministers would “not risk a second wave” of the coronavirus in their plan to ease measures.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed a four-phase plan out of lockdown was due to commence from 28 May.

However tourism and trade bodies have criticised the plan, warning some businesses could be left behind.

Appearing on BBC One Scotland’s Politics Scotland, Ms Hyslop faced questions over the clarity of the route map – namely whether small businesses that do not interact with the public could open in either phase one or phase two of the plans.

The document says that firms, including garden centres and drive-through takeaways, can reopen in phase one, while construction, factories, warehouses, laboratories and small shops can resume work in the second phase.

However, it does not give a comprehensive list of individual businesses and which timelines they should follow.

Ms Hyslop said: “I absolutely understand the importance of getting the country back, but we will not allow a second wave.

“If you look at the chart it is quite clear that if you are a non-office-based workplace – that means a small business or a factory or areas in phase two – that is when you can open. It is plain as day.

“If you are not listed in phase one, which is outdoor work or the initial stages of construction, you should not be opening on Thursday.”

Hospitality and tourism

Earlier this week the Scottish Tourism Alliance said that the industry faced collapse unless there was support from government – either to increase the flow of emergency funding or to ease restrictions on travel, eating and drinking.

At the UK Hospitality trade grouping, Scottish director Willie MacLeod said the route map “will do more harm than good” and could see vulnerable businesses left behind.

Ms Hyslop said that while the UK government should deliver support such as cutting VAT rates for businesses, she was hopeful that hospitality firms such as hotels would have a season this year.

She added that the Scottish government did want tourists coming to Scotland from England “when it is safe to do so” and that certain parts of the sector would be open sooner than others.

When asked if the Scottish government was considering relaxing the two-metre distancing rule for restaurants and bars, Ms Hyslop said she was engaging with businesses to see what was possible – but that the rule “absolutely” remained in place.

National Trust crisis

Earlier this month the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) launched a series of emergency actions to stay afloat, including putting 429 staff at risk of redundancy.

Ms Hyslop said she had put a team together to try to come up with a solution, but that removing the threat to staff was necessary to reach a consensus.

“I thought that would be wise if they want the public to help support their public appeal,” she said.

“We want to support the National Trust for Scotland but they’ve got to support their staff – that means using the extension of the furlough scheme.”

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