SCOTLAND’S devastated tourism industry is gearing up to resurrect part of its vital summer season after ministers indicated it is set to re-open for business next month. 

Assuming Scotland’s strategy to suppress the Covid-19 pandemic continues on track, hotels, B&Bs, as well as pubs, restaurants and museums could all re-open on July 15, but social distancing measures will need to remain in place. 

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Tourism industry set to re-open.Camley's Cartoon: Tourism industry set to re-open.

The announcement has been widely welcomed by businesses but the Scottish Tourism Association has renewed calls for the two-metre social distancing rule to be cut in half in order to further help flagging businesses attempting to recover from the economic shutdown. 

Traders hit hard by the pandemic could be set for a staycation boom this summer as Scots are given a glimmer of hope of enjoying a holiday at home. 

Meanwhile self-caterers have stressed they should be able to re-open earlier as social distancing is easier to enforce in their style of operation. 

Nicola Sturgeon has stressed that she has not been given any scientific evidence that would justify cutting the social distancing rule in half to just one metre – and warned that countries that have taken a more relaxed approach have put stricter face covering rules in place. 

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said that the industry, which has been “devastated” by the Covid-19 outbreak, should be given the go-ahead to re-open at the scheduled review to take place on 9 July.  

He added that "some time would then be required for interconnected services such as transport to prepare" – with a provisional re-opening date for the sector on 15 July.  

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Social distancing ferry restrictions 'completely unsustainable' for island life

The move is still dependent on public health advice and the ability to move to phase three of the Scottish Government’s lockdown route-map.  

Mr Ewing said: “I’ve been engaging with businesses since the beginning of the outbreak and I have heard their calls for more clarity which I can provide.  

"Businesses should start to prepare for a provisional return to trading – with appropriate safety guidelines – on 15 July 2020.  

“This date cannot be definitive and is conditional on public health advice and progression to phase three of the route map.  

"Businesses must now use this time to satisfy the necessary regulations and adapt to the new way of living.”  

Guidance is set to be issued by the Scottish Government for how businesses can prepare to re-open.  

The Scottish Tourism Alliance has welcomed the announcement, labelling it “a hugely positive milestone in our road to recovery” - stressing that “the reassurance that there is a summer season for tourism in Scotland will offer a huge comfort and relief to many thousands of businesses”.  

But the alliance has renewed calls for the two-metre social distancing rule to be reconsidered to help businesses to adapt to the new way of operating.  

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, added: “It remains the case that urgent solutions or alternative measures must be found or taken to overcome the current two-metre distancing restrictions to enable economic viability for many businesses. This is especially true of the capacities on our ferries as it will significantly impact island economies where tourism is the lifeblood for so many.   

“Whilst the package of grant support which has already made available to many small tourism businesses by the UK and Scottish Governments has been hugely welcomed, there remains a good number still in need of immediate grant support to enable them to be in the best possible position to open on 15 July. 

“A longer-term support package for the sector will definitely be needed to ensure the survival of many businesses over the coming nine months. Most are reliant on there being an optimum spring, summer and early autumn trading period to cover their costs and fixed overheads in the winter months and recovery projections are still likely to be slow.”  

Earlier at First Minister's Questions, Ms Sturgeon was pressed by Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles to think again about reducing the social distancing rule to one metre. 

READ MORE: Scottish tourism 'at risk of total collapse'

She said: "Different countries use different distances – some countries use a metre, some countries use a metre and a half, some counties like the UK advise two metres. 

"All of the advice I have had here in Scotland at this stage says to me that we should not change the two metres." 

Ms Sturgeon added: "As you reduce the distance you do increase the risk of transmission – there's also a relationship between the distance and then the time that it is safe for people to be in contact. 

"Some countries that have a shorter distance also have different requirements in terms of face masks and face coverings." 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Relaxing two-metre rule would likely need stricter face covering guidance

Mr Ewing said he accepted public transport will "of necessity be constrained because of the requirement to comply with social distancing" but pledged the Scottish Government will "make the necessary, practical arrangements to do our very best to meet the challenges". 

Chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, Fiona Campbell, welcomed the clarity given to businesses and added that "owing to the nature of self-catering that allows for easier social distancing compared to other accommodation, we are able to return to operating sooner than planned, with robust cleaning protocols in place". 

She added: “Scotland’s self-caterers have grasped the task of preparing to open again and in doing so have created our own stringent and thorough protocols for cleaning our properties which we have shared this with industry stakeholders and the Scottish Government. 

“We are ready and able to get Scottish tourism moving again.” 

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chairman said the news will give traders "an opportunity to salvage a share of their summer season". 

READ MORE: CalMac Ferries warns it won't be able to cope with 'staycation surge' amid social distancing

He added: “But Scottish tourism isn’t just a bed for the night. Other businesses in the visitor economy – such as tour guides or local galleries – can now start making decisions about how and when they should re-open. Tourists will also want places to eat, drink and explore when they get here. That’s why the plan to re-open Scotland to visitors needs to reflect the breadth of the industry and the views of local communities.”   

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce added: “This will be welcome news for so many who are reliant on hospitality and tourism for their livelihoods. 

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“The Scottish Chamber network alone represents over 1,600 businesses in the tourism sector which employ over 46,000 people, underlining how critical it is for jobs and skills that the sector thrives.  

“The Scottish Government has listened but for some it is already too late and the challenge ahead remains clear. The sector, which is essential to maintaining the fabric of many areas of Scotland remains fragile. These companies will continue to need support to ensure they can adapt to provide a safe experience for visitors.”