UNDER-PRESSURE businesses have raised fears over what will be asked of them in order to cut physical-distancing rules in half when they re-open in less than two weeks' time.

Nicola Sturgeon revealed yesterday that as Scotland enters phase three of the routemap out of lockdown on July 15, the two-metre rule can be cut in half by pubs and restaurants – as well as on public transport.

But the easing will be dependent on mitigation measures, yet to be drawn up, after the First Minister said "the science has not changed", leading to questions over why businesses have been given a nervous wait before yesterday's announcement.

READ MORE: Two-metre rule to be relaxed for some as Nicola Sturgeon outlines lockdown relaxations

Beer gardens, opening on Monday, must still comply with the two-metre rule.

Mitigation measures for reducing the physical distancing rule to one metre could include improved ventilation, Perspex screens, regulation of customer flow and seating plans.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The general rule, in law, will continue to be that businesses and services must take all reasonable measures to ensure that two-metre distancing is maintained.

“For hospitality and possibly other sectors, mitigation will also include the collection of names and addresses of customers to help with contact tracing when that is necessary."

Business leaders have called for urgent clarity, warning that if the measures required by traders are not practical, jobs could be under threat.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses in the hard pressed retail, hospitality and tourism sectors will welcome this flexibility. Being able to reduce distances from two metres to one metre will mean more businesses can now start planning to re-open. “Whilst this is a step in the right direction, we will need clarity and detail on the mitigations that businesses will be asked to implement.

"Ultimately, preventing the spread of the virus is everyone's responsibility and we must work together to ensure the mitigations are practical and affordable for businesses. Anything short of that will result in further job losses.”

Face coverings will also become mandatory in shops, where people flouting the rules could face a fixed penalty notice.

The First Minister said that it would not be fair to ask shop workers to enforce the rules, but warned that "the police will enforce these things proportionately and sensitively".

She added: "I recognise this is not the easiest thing for police to enforce, so that's why all of us can help by doing this voluntarily." The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has raised concerns retail traders were not told about face coverings becoming mandatory in shops when they re-opened their doors to customers earlier this week.

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But the Scottish Government has for some time been urging people entering shops to wear face coverings and the First Minister made a specific plea ahead of street-facing shops re-opening, which started on Monday.

Andrew McRae, the FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “This is another welcome step along the road to freeing us from lockdown and getting the country back to business. “There’s a real need, if we’re to stem the tide of rising job losses and avoid long-term damage, to get as much of the economy up and running as quickly and safely as possible.”

He added: “There is a lot in this announcement, and it is complicated – particularly around the two-metre rule. So, it will be crucial that the businesses who will be in charge of implementing the new rules are given clear guidance on the rules and their practical application.

“That’s especially the case with mandatory face coverings in shops. That will be a big change for small retailers and it would have been easier to prepare if this was flagged ahead of them re-opening on Monday.

“Now there’s very limited time to implement this and understandable concern about creating tensions with customers.”

Union bosses have raised concerns over social distancing rules being relaxed in shops now that face coverings are to be mandatory.

Stewart Forrest, Usdaw’s Scottish divisional officer, said: “Usdaw worked with the Scottish Retail Consortium on joint safety guidance for shops based on the two-metre rule and in our experience retailers have taken that seriously and are complying. We see no reason why that should be relaxed now that the Scottish Government has made face coverings mandatory in stores.

“Our big concern is who enforces mandatory face coverings? We do not want shopworkers to be expected to turn people away from the store because they do not have a face covering or it is not being worn properly."

The First Minister said that people will be informed about the level of risk where they live under "more detailed surveillance" to be carried out.

She added: "Equally, if you are going somewhere and that business has decided to operate one-metre with mitigations rather than two metres, you have a right to know that before you go in so that you can assess whether want to do that or not.”

The Scottish Conservatives have labelled the relaxation of the two-metre rule for some businesses as a "proportionate balance".

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: “This is a reasonable approach which will maintain public health while easing the restrictions that would have made it impossible for many hospitality and retail businesses to operate.

“While no-one wants to see the need for social distancing, or indeed other mitigations like face coverings, to last longer than necessary, we believe the measures announced today strike a proportionate balance.

“Businesses now need as much detail as possible on how this will work, and urgently."