OWNERS of Scotland’s struggling soft play centres are planning to protest outside Holyrood today in a last-ditch plea for financial help from the Scottish Government.

The sector is warning most businesses north of the border are facing permanent closure because of a Scotland-only ban on them re-opening because of coronavirus.

Soft play centres were allowed to re-open in Wales on August 10, in England on August 15, and in Northern Ireland on September 14.

However in Scotland they remain closed despite plans to adapt them for Covid, the devastating impact on their finances, and loss of amenities for the families who rely on them.

The Scottish Government had proposed re-opening on September 14, but this was delayed to an indicative date of October 5.

Announcing new restrictions yesterday, Ms Sturgeon said this date was now also “unlikely”.

The organisers of today’s Save Scottish Indoor Play event say they have written to Ms Sturgeon and her MSPs repeatedly about their predicament but been “ignored”.

They say soft plays, unlike theatres and nightclubs, had been ordered to close but not given the same lifeline grants.

More than 6,000 people have also signed a petition calling for financial help for Scotland’s soft plays.

Alan Arnott, who founded the Pandamonium Soft Play Centre in Erskine in a warehouse eight years ago and built a business with a £1m turnover and 33 staff, said he was facing closure within weeks without financial help for the industry.

He said it was shocking that centres had been “abandoned” by the Scottish Government without an explanation while millions went to nightclubs and theatres.

He said: “If we’re not opening, give us some money so these businesses can survive.

“Thousands of jobs are at risk.

“If we can’t open for another six months, give us the funds to cover our overheads and mortgages, or businesses will go into liquidation and kids will be heartbroken.”

Sarah Davidson, owner of the Whale of a Time Soft Play in Shawlands in Glasgow, which is in the First Minister’s constituency, wrote to Ms Sturgeon in vain.

She told her: “We may be a small industry but we are a lifeline to many families in order for their children to play, explore and learn.

“Keeping a venue going based only on the initial government grant given in April is increasingly tough. We have had no other grant support and unlike other hospitality and gym businesses are still unable to trade.

“Kids need a place to play in the winter - adults can survive without nightclubs.”

Tory MSP Miles Briggs, who is backing today’s midday event, said: “Indoor and soft play areas have spent thousands of pounds getting themselves Covid-19 ready, to minimise the spread of transmission, and allow them to open their doors again.

“These businesses have been told at short notice that they are no longer able to reopen and many are at real risk of closure, with companies taking on large amounts of debt.

“If the indoor and soft play areas are being singled out to stay closed, then the Scottish Government must provide them with the necessary support to survive through to next year.

“Indoor and soft play areas are valuable in the community, allowing young children to play and interact, as well as being sociable places for parents.”

The Government said: “We are currently working with the soft play sector and other stakeholders to develop guidance for the re-opening of soft play centres when it is safe for them to do so. We have called on the UK Government to extend [furlough] which is particularly important for sectors like soft play who are still required to remain closed.”