The boss of a leading north-east business organisation fears switching the lights of the economy on and off will cause “serious long-term damage” to communities.
Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce is unhappy with restrictions on selling alcohol indoors at venues for more than two weeks.
He believes that pubs and restaurants are “bearing the brunt” as part of the effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Borthwick said the new rules, which run for two weeks from Friday, will “sound the death knell” for some businesses.
He said: “These so-called circuit breaker measures are in fact business, job and confidence breakers.
“What we heard demonstrates a lack of clarity, inconsistency, utter confusion and leaves the businesses and people of Scotland scratching their heads.
“It seems that alcohol is at the root of all evil when it comes to controlling Covid and our pubs and restaurants are again bearing the brunt of government policy. Yet off sales remain permitted, encouraging consumption indoors in unregulated environments rather than Covid secure hospitality premises.
“Those premises in Aberdeen that were totally closed for three weeks in August are allowed to remain open this time, kind of. But, from discussions with our members, there’s a real fear that customers will choose not to go given the level of restrictions in place.
“For hotels in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, the October school holidays offered the last chance of the year to attract leisure visitors looking for a staycation. But many of their markets are now cut off due to ‘essential only’ travel guidance for much of Scotland.
“Currently infection rates in Grampian are more than six times lower than in other parts of the country, so where are the targeted measures now?
“These announcements will sound the death knell for businesses across the hospitality sector in this region and not just pubs, cafes and restaurants but the thousands of small businesses that supply them.”
Mr Borthwick is also calling for more information about a multi-million-pound support package announced yesterday and believes it offers a “glimmer of hope.”
He said the new restrictions feel like another lockdown and he believes the collective voices of business needs to be heard as part of the fight against Covid-19.
He said: “The £40m support package mentioned offers a glimmer of hope but we have yet to understand how this will be distributed. We know from the restrictions brought in previously in Aberdeen that putting significant limits on one sector impacts many more businesses than just those directly affected, the support package needs to reflect this.
“Not another lockdown, we were told but this feels exactly that.
“What exactly is the plan? Buying 28 days? Until what? For what purpose? So we can repeat the pattern again and again ‘while we’re waiting on other things to happen’?
“The voice of business and the economy is missing from the debate, we need a better balance and our governments to see business as part of the solution, not the problem.
“In the vast majority of cases, the recent growth and spread of the virus is not coming from business-managed environments. In most instances, employers are playing an effective and engaged role in the fight against the spread of the virus.
“We simply cannot continue to keep switching the lights of the economy on and off without causing serious long-term damage to communities, businesses and livelihoods.”
Meanwhile, the boss of the north-east’s tourism marketing body, VisitAberdeenshire, believes the chance to attract visitors before the height of winter is “slipping away” as a result of the rules.
Chris Foy, the group’s CEO, also called for more details about the support package funding.
He said: “The new restrictions due to be implemented from Friday further impact an already damaged tourism and hospitality sector.
“While the £40 million pledged to support businesses is certainly welcome, clarity is needed on how and where these funds can be applied to those businesses affected once again in the north-east.
“VisitAberdeenshire’s own plans for regional promotion have been delayed, emphasising that aspirations to extend the tourism season are slipping away as we edge towards winter.”