Scottish Government responds to licensed hospitality sector’s pre-action letter for a judicial review.
Following the unprecedented steps, taken by five of Scotland’s hospitality Industry bodies, of commencing the legal process against restrictions imposed on the licensed trade by the Scottish Government, the group received a response at 3.56 p.m. today complying with the requested deadline of 4.00 p.m.
The Scottish Beer & Pub Association, The Scottish Licensed Trade Association, UKHospitality (Scotland), the Scottish Hospitality Group and the Night Time Industries Association Scotland jointly served a pre-action letter following receipt of an Opinion by prominent legal expert Aidan O’Neill QC advising that a Judicial Review would be warranted.
In a Joint Statement the group’s spokesperson, Paul Waterson said:-
Now that the Scottish Government has formally responded to the group’s pre-action letter, the group will now follow proper protocols and “digest, consult and scrutinise” the contents and will subsequently release a more substantial response at the appropriate time.
All our operators in the licensed hospitality sector and the staff that this industry employs have been eagerly awaiting this response. We reiterate that we all understand and entirely support the goal of suppressing the virus, but our sector is in crisis and the announcements and debate in Parliament yesterday gives us no real grounds for optimism in the future.
Despite intensive discussions over the weekend and industry proposals for an alternative tier system and support scheme, requested by Government officials, which would help the industry survive not only operationally but financially, these have been given little more than lip service.
Representatives of the group certainly do not consider these recently increased engagement opportunities as following proper consultation procedures given the short time afforded.”
A letter was sent by solicitors TLT to the Scottish Ministers, challenging the legal basis of recent restrictive legislation relating to the hospitality sector passed by the Scottish Parliament. The letter follows receipt of an Opinion from Aidan O’Neill QC on the merits of proceeding with Judicial Review of the legislation and the actings of the Scottish Government.
The letter itself sets out the legal basis for proposed Judicial Review. It makes specific calls on the Scottish Government which include withdrawal of current regulations; entering into meaningful consultation with the sector; and cessation of reliance on certain emergency procedures which avoid any prior Parliamentary involvement or discussion.
Further, the letter calls on the Scottish Government to provide statements of reasons behind the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Additional
Temporary Measures) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 and the Health Protection (Coronavirus)
(Restrictions and Requirements) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 and for interim suspension of these.
The much-needed evidence and impact assessments have also been called for which relate to the impact of the measures on the spread of the virus, jobs and business viability for the sector and include the behaviour of patrons within venues.
While we all recognise the very real challenge that Covid presents, the process of law making that we have seen over the last two months has given us cause for concern. There is a lack of accountability of the Scottish Government to the Scottish Parliament and the people whom they serve. The restrictions impinge on fundamental rights of all the people of Scotland whether they in or visit hospitality premises. We are concerned that the Regulations are not proportionate and are not evidence-based work.