ON Tuesday, as I frantically peddled away the miles and hopefully the pounds along a cold and frosty towpath of the Union Canal, I decided against my better judgement to tune into the “Daily Doomcast", the regular Covid-19 briefing hosted by our usually gloomy, risk-adverse First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

I did so, believe it or not, in an effort to try to lift my flagging spirits, which have been at their lowest ebb since the start of this second lockdown. I had been tipped off that an unscheduled and very encouraging announcement from the First Minister on the easing of Scottish lockdown restrictions was imminent.

The tip-off was that, due to the continued success of the vaccine roll-out and the significant reduction in the prevalence of coronavirus, and, let’s not kid ourselves on here, the joyful scenes of mobbed English beer gardens which had turned many a Scot putrid green with envy – and possibly also the fact that one million postal ballot papers will be dropping through letter boxes – the lifting of Covid travel restrictions would now be accelerated. It would be brought forward by 10 days and the easing, a major policy reversal, would also include the licence trade, live music and the night-time economy.

Unethical, impractical, and unnecessary: we don’t need passports for clubs

I shouldn’t have bothered! It was again all too good to be true. As has become the depressing norm throughout this pandemic, once the Big Brother “newspeak” of the First Minister's briefing had been fully digested, it became very clear that there was to be no light at the end of this business-destroying tunnel, certainly not this side of the summer or possibly even autumn.

I had perked up when the First Minister said that she knows "many people that want to see venues, like, nightclubs, open again" and that she was more optimistic and hopeful that all of that would be possible over the summer period. I wanted to believe this was true, share her optimism, but the cold and brutal reality was that this hollow announcement had changed nothing. There would be no “Freedom Friday" for any of these struggling sectors today, tomorrow, or for months to come, if at all.

And, with my hopes again cynically and cruelly crushed by a government to which I had once given my full support, believing in my naivety that they actually cared about Scotland’s live music and night time economies, I trundled home feeling as let down and deflated as my worn tyres.

I wasn’t alone. A spokesman for the NTIA, which represents nightclubs and entertainment venues, was equally disappointed at the vague talk of loosening restrictions sometime in the future and said, “until there is a complete end to all legal restrictions on capacity, activity and operating hours, our sector simply cannot trade viably”.

They say the devil is in the detail. Well, I wish that were true, because there really has been no detail given, only the contentious and iniquitous reality that for non-scientific reasons known only to Scotland’s all-powerful Covid eliminator Professor Jason Leitch (who can only be reached on BBC Scotland’s Off The Ball and the inner sanctum of Scotland’s anti-alcohol party), this multi-billion pound sector, a colossal contributor to Scotland’s GDP and a major employer, as well as a pivotal component of our world-renowned live music industry, has not been deemed important enough to be granted the lowly status of Level 0 in the government’s strategic reopening framework.

That is a shocking state of affairs and the FM and Scottish Government, and their hectoring gaggle of dictatorial mask-wearing and social-distancing health experts should all hang their heads in collective shame. As should Finance Secretary Kate Forbes over her stubborn refusal to authorise the release of Covid funding, part of the £40 million already received from the UK under the Barnett consequentials and promised by various ministers. It is emergency funding that is desperately needed for venues, promoters, festivals and labels, who because of these ongoing restrictions are unable to open, book or trade and are in dire threat of going under – monies, I should add, that have been paid out in England and Wales.

Stop talking about the referendum or it will be another R word we face: redundancies

Freedom Friday? There is nothing free about it, especially when you might have to pay a lawyer!

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