By Bill Heaney
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today urged the First Minister to clear up whether staff in cafes, pubs and restaurants should be wearing face coverings.
He has asked this after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reprimanded some businesses for failing to ensure staff were wearing face coverings despite the government’s guidance and the law not requiring it.
The Scottish Government’s phase 3 advice notes: “A face covering must be worn by all people in a shop,…. This does not include hospitality premises such as cafes, coffee shops, restaurants or pubs.”
However at her daily briefing on Tuesday the First Minister caused confusion by saying: “However. although the majority of businesses are following the rules, we do know anecdotally of some instances of guidance being breached – of seating areas perhaps not being cleaned thoroughly between customers; of staff not wearing face coverings; and of contact details for Test & Protect not being taken.”
Mr Rennie said: “If the Scottish Government wants face coverings for staff to be mandatory, they need to make it the law or if they want to advise they be worn they need to write it clearly in the guidance. Neither is the case at present despite what the First Minister said at the briefing.
“The First Minister should clear up this muddle quickly so that customers know what to actually expect to keep them safe.
“This risks a breakdown of confidence between customers and staff. Businesses are alarmed that they may face irate customers who have listened to the First Minister’s briefing.
“So many businesses are doing good work, sticking by the law and the guidance and keeping patrons and staff safe but it is not a government requirement or advice that face coverings should always be worn. This is a muddle that needs cleared up.”
Publican Graham Bucknall said: “This is becoming a source of confusion and potential confrontation. We have had many, many positive comments from customers about our organisation and about our new safety measures, and also about how well we have done to make the pub visit enjoyable and relaxed.
“We have read the guidance and the law and have worked hard to follow it. It is therefore dispiriting to be told by the First Minister live on TV that we are not. If government wants my staff to always wear face coverings they should tell us properly as we don’t need to be reprimanded by the First Minister for things we are not required to do.
“Since reopening out of thousands of customers we have had just two written complaints saying we are breaking the law by not forcing our staff to wear face coverings. They were wrong.
“However, the First Minister’s comments have caused confusion. Unless this is cleared up I fully expect a bucket load of complaints from customers.”