The Scottish Government has been asked to "unequivocally promise" that pubs, bars and restaurants won’t be faced with an unfair festive hangover due to the relaxation in lockdown rules.

The call from the Scottish Hospitality Group comes as UK scientists have voiced serious concerns about a spike in Covid cases in the new year as a result of more people socialising in homes over Christmas.

The group says more flexibility is needed in local restrictions, along with better grant support. The latter should include the lifting of caps on financial help to ensure the sector is not punished for irresponsible private gatherings.

“We need the Scottish Government to tweak the tiers and let viable businesses trade over a crucial time of year," group spokesman Stephen Montgomery said. "That will allow us to provide spaces for safer socialising, minimising the risks of a third wave."

READ MORE: 'Christmas gatherings lead to January lockdown and third wave' warn experts

He added: “We all want to have the best Christmas at home possible but it could signal last orders for many local operators. If that’s what happens as a result of the government going against its own approach to date, then that would be yet another agonising blow for all those hard-working staff who’ve endured so much throughout the pandemic.”

The demand comes as nearly 15,000 people in less than a week have signed a petition calling for better support for the industry.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon accused of ‘disrespecting parliament’ over hospitality support

The new petition calling for the Scottish Government to "tweak the tiers" is part of a broader campaign to address minor changes in restrictions that the industry says could avoid business closures and redundancies.

The introduction to the petition says: “The Scottish hospitality sector is on the brink of ruin. Without a change in the government's approach or adequate financial support, local communities will lose vital facilities and thousands of people will lose their jobs - including many young people.”