After North East Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, the First Minister has now agreed to allow all licenced cafes to remain open without selling alcohol.
Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD):
Without saying so, the First Minister believes that it is the consumption of alcohol indoors in hospitality settings that is a major cause of the spread of the virus. Could she publish the evidence that has led her to that conclusion?
Why do cafes, pubs and restaurants have to close completely for 16 days—for instance, they could voluntarily accept a ban on alcohol and concentrate on food and soft drinks instead—whereas cafes that do not have a licence and ordinarily sell food and soft drinks can remain open? That does not seem to me to be logical or make sense. Could the First Minister consider giving cafes, pubs and restaurants the option to remain open if they so choose, as long as they remove alcohol?
The First Minister:
They will have that option outside the central belt. We have to take tougher measures in the central belt, because this is also about limiting the volume of people coming together. That is why we are going further in the central belt than we are going elsewhere.
Trust me—I am not trying to make judgmental statements about alcohol. People say—and I understand this; I demand it all the time of the Government’s clinical advisers—“Give us the evidence.” However, we get to a point where some of this is just common sense. We all know that, in certain circumstances, complying with certain restrictions is more difficult.
Mike Rumbles is saying that there has to be evidence. There is a lot of evidence, and we are publishing a lot of it today. Scientists across the world are publishing evidence all the time. I am not saying that evidence is not important—it is crucially important; I am making the obvious point that there are some matters to which we also have to apply our common sense.
At the heart of this is an infectious virus. We know how it transmits, so we know how to try to stop it transmitting, and we know the circumstances in which it is more difficult than in others to do that.
Evidence is important, and we are publishing as much of that as we can, but, ultimately, we all have to apply a bit of good old-fashioned common sense as well sometimes, and we are trying to get the balance around that as right as possible.