Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced near full-lockdown conditions across much of Scotland, forcing the closure of non-essential retail, due to rising COVID-19 cases.
From Friday 11 local authority areas will enter level 4 restrictions (the highest of Scotland’s five-tear system barring a complete lockdown) for three weeks.
The local authorities, which are home to two million people, are West Dunbartonshire, East Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, West Lothian, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Stirling.
Under the terms of level 4 restrictions all non-essential retail will close, along with pubs, restaurants and cafes, as well as gyms and leisure centres, hairdressers, barbers, beauticians and indoor visitor attractions. Schools and nurseries will remain open.
Sturgeon said the restrictions were intended to be “short and sharp” in the hope that economic activity could be resumed before Christmas. The current plan would mean shops would be shut until 11 December.
However the Scottish Retail Consortium described the move as a “hammer blow” for the sector at its most crucial trading period.
“Many Scottish shops face a bitter winter following this deeply disappointing announcement on store closures. There is little evidence shuttering shops does much to suppress the spread of Covid, but it’s undeniable closing high street stores in November and into December during the critical Christmas trading period is a hammer blow to hard-pressed retailers.
Director David Lonsdale said: “This is the worst possible time to close these stores, who often need a strong end to the year to tide them over the lean winter period. These shops are set to miss out on over £90m of lost sales each week, following eight months of declining sales. The blunt reality is the offer of grant support won’t make up those lost sales – we can only hope those shops forced to close can weather the next few weeks.
“In England non-essential retail is due to be re-opened after a four-week shutdown on 2 December. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to ensure that retailers can re-open in time to capitalise on some pre-Christmas spending.”
It is understood that in England, after 2 December, regions will revert to the tiered restrictions in place before the last lockdown with the severity of restrictions dependent on the number of cases in each region.
England previously had a three-tier system in place under which non-essential retail was permitted to open, however there are suggestions that a new “tier 4” may be introduced in areas where the virus levels are still high. It is not yet clear what restrictions would be in place under this new tier if it is introduced.
The British Retail Consortium, along with more than 60 major retailer, has already written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to ensure that shops in England can reopen in early December warning that many retailers will be forced to close for good if that is not the case.