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Trade bodies slam University of Stirling report

Published:  16 February, 2021

Trade bodies have slammed a University of Stirling report that suggested licensed premises in Scotland did not adhere to strict Covid guidelines when they were open last summer.

Limited to just 29 licensed premises out of an estimated 9,000 to 11,500 across the country, the research painted an “alarmist and almost wholly inaccurate picture” of the efforts to which Scotland’s hospitality businesses had gone to keep people safe, said Willie Macleod, UK Hospitality Scotland executive director.  

“The report appears flawed in the extreme. It is limited to just 29 licensed premises out of an estimated 9,000 across the country, with these venues only being visited for a maximum of two hours each,” he said. 

“The report states that research was also carried out during the period of May to August 2020, even though businesses were only permitted to reopen in mid-July. We do not agree that the efforts of the researchers are anywhere near enough to accurately represent even a reasonable proportion of the sector, never mind its entirety.”

Echoing Macleod, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) also expressed grave concern at the findings of the survey. 

It said the survey made “a series of claims that cannot stand up to scrutiny" based on its low sample.

“The Stirling survey is also at odds with more credible UK-wide surveys which have consistently found that Covid-19 transmission rates in licensed hospitality venues have been “extremely low,” it added.

SLTA spokesman Paul Waterson said: “To present the results of a survey of just 29 premises when there are in the region of 11,500 premises in our sector the length and breadth of Scotland is ludicrous and is in no way representative of this country’s hospitality businesses.

“It has been estimated that the licensed hospitality sector in Scotland has spent £80m on becoming Covid compliant. To the best of our knowledge, and despite asking the Scottish government on numerous occasions, there are no Scottish-specific stats currently available on virus transmission in licensed hospitality."

A previous survey, by UK Hospitality, spanned 12,522 hospitality venues across the UK that employ a total of 358,000 people. It found that in the 14 weeks since 4 July, 1,728 staff members had been infected with Covid, equating to an employee infection rate of 0.48% across 20 million work shifts across the UK.

According to this survey, the customer infection rate was found to be even lower – with just 780 customers infected with the virus over the 14-week period, which equates to a 0.06% customer infection rate per venue.

Stirling’s survey was carried out during May to August last year, although pubs and restaurants in Scotland were only able to reopen indoors from July 15. Researchers posed as customers.