Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out the country’s exit from lockdown today, which would see non-essential retail opened by 26 April.
Addressing MSPs today, Sturgeon’s plan, which only stretches to the end of April, would also see an expansion of “essential” retail, enabling more stores to open, and the resumption of click & collect services from early April.
It is not yet clear which stores will be reclassified as essential from the earlier date but it seems likely to be homewares and garden centres. Those retailers opening on 26 April will have endured a lockdown in Scotland of 17 weeks.
Yesterday, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that non-essential retailers in England would be permitted to open on 12 April. Click & collect has been ongoing in England during lockdown but some retailers halted the service to support the Government’s efforts in suppressing the spread of the virus.
Johnson also outlined a roadmap to the full re-opening of the English economy and the lifting of all restrictions, which, if the data on infections permits, would happen on 21 June. Sturgeon, meanwhile, has limited her plan at this stage to the end of April and said that Scotland would work through a revised tiering system to an eventual full lifting of restrictions.
Some business groups in Scotland are frustrated that the country is moving at a slower pace in England. Responding to the announcement, Scottish Retail Consortium CEO David Lonsdale said: “Scottish Ministers are clearly proceeding with an abundance of caution, and the decision from early April to scrap curbs on click and collect and expand the definition of essential retail are encouraging. Hopefully, this will see garden centres and homeware stores readmitted to the list of essential stores.
“The industry stands ready to play its part in getting the Scottish economy moving again, after a torrid eleven months which has seen retail sales plummet and shop vacancies spike to a six-year high.”
Scottish Chambers of Commerce CEO Liz Cameron added: “Businesses have made it clear. The only route to protect livelihoods and jobs is to re-open the economy by enabling businesses to get back to trading, supported by a clear and transparent roadmap. Today’s announcement from the First Minister provides a direction of travel as to how some restrictions will ease and the conditions in which local business communities are allowed to re-open and re-build.
“More detail on the roadmap is essential as it will enable both consumers as well as businesses plan for reopening, and we need the Scottish Government to stick to its guns on these dates as much as is possible. It is important that Scotland remains as closely in step with the four nations as is possible. A competitive disadvantage to business communities elsewhere in the UK will only add insult to the injury already caused by the pandemic.”