NICOLA Sturgeon has warned that legal challenges and hospitality businesses trying to find loopholes in restrictions “undermines” public health and makes future flexibilities less likely to be granted.

The First Minister was speaking before five of Scotland’s biggest industry bodies launched legal action against the Scottish Government for measures they claim have singled out pubs “with no sound evidence”.

Ms Sturgeon stressed that businesses and individuals have the right to challenge any decision through the legal process.

She said: “Every business, every individual, we operate even in a pandemic in the rule of law. We’ve had to have emergency laws put in place to deal with the quite unique challenges of a global pandemic – but even then, we have to operate within a legal framework.

“That gives every individual and every business the right, if they choose to, to challenge that.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Pub owners begin legal fight

“I would not criticise businesses for doing that, even if I wish it was different. Also, with any legal action, it’s important I don’t say anything that might prejudice the outcome of that.”

Ms Sturgeon has asked about the frustration in the hospitality sector about the restrictions after the 16-day measures, due to come to an end tomorrow will be rolled on for another two weeks before a tiered framework is put into action from November 2.

She said: “People in that sector are entirely understandably stressed and anxious and deeply worried about the future of their businesses and the future of their jobs.

”When I talk about the buck stopping here, that includes people wanting to criticise and be angry at the decisions government has taken. I understand that and I accept that as part of my job, as part of the burden they are carrying.”

The First Minister insisted that “these decisions are not taken lightly”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “The idea that I willingly or lightly put restrictions on businesses’ ability to operate just could not be further from the truth.

“We are in the most horrendous situation right now of trying to balance and minimise the health and life impact of a potentially very dangerous virus with the need to minimise the impact on the economy.

“These are not easy decisions and the impacts are not easy. But we are not doing these things voluntarily – we are doing them because they are necessary to deal with the situation that we find ourselves in.”

The First Minister was pressed over the row that erupted over the lack of clarity between a café and a restaurant with licensed cafes allowed to remain open under the current rules.

Glasgow City Council issued final warning to businesses that had remained open before they would be forced to close. But Eusebi’s Deli has secured an interim interdict from the Sheriff Court in Glasgow which prevents the local authority from serving a prohibition notice that would force the business to shut.

READ MORE: Eusebi's Glasgow wins court fight to stay open

Ms Sturgeon said: “The issue around cafes comes about because we didn’t do what we initially intended to do which was just make all licensed cafes close. “If we had done that, we wouldn’t have this situation but because we tried to allow flexibility, we end up in this position.”

She added: “If we are to have flexibilities, it does mean that we have to ask people to operate within the spirit of those flexibilities because it makes them harder to give them if it just leads to everybody trying to run through what they see as a loophole.

“I don’t blame people for trying to do that but it undermines what we’ve all got to do right now which is limit that human interaction that allows the virus to spread.”