MINISTERS have been served with a pre-action letter as hundreds of Scots bars and clubs mount a collective court action over 'unlawful" Covid restrictions which they say are decimating the industry.

The Night Time Industries Association in Scotland says it intends to pursue a judicial review in the Court of Sesson challenging the validity of legal restrictions being imposed upon hospitality and night-time economy in Scotland while trying to avoid industry collapse and the loss of 39,000 jobs.

The 10pm curfew being imposed as licensed premises started to open up from last Monday was described by the NTIA as "devastating" for its hundreds of members who cannot trade as most of the revenue is made after this time.

It revealed that nightclubs, city centre bars and music venues have already had to cut 44% of the 43,000 staff it directly employs in normal times.

The group which represents hundreds of Scots business has recruited TLT Solicitors and the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop QC, to argue their case in Court at the earliest practical opportunity.

In the legal letter to ministers, the NTIA's legal representatives said the group intends to "challenge the lawfulness of the Scottish Government’s decision making and legislation in regulating both the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the manner in which it is proposed to exit from the current body of restrictions".

READ MORE: Scotland's night time economy 'on brink of collapse' with 'impending unemployment tsunami'

It expresses shock that in the five levels of Covid restrictions even on Level 0 - when there are no weekly Covid postive cases per 100,000 people - nightclubs, dance halls, discotheques and similar venues would remain closed.

HeraldScotland:

It says: "It will be contended that the continued enforced closure by the Scottish Government of listed businesses is irrational and unlawful. It represents an infringement of the business owners’ rights under Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

They added: "In circumstances where the virus has been suppressed to such an extent that the whole of Scotland or indeed designated local areas within Scotland have moved to level 0, it is irrational, unlawful and disproportionate to insist that listed businesses keep their premises closed.

"It is reasonable for these businesses to expect to have, at the very least, an indicative date from the Scottish Government as to when they are likely to be able to re-open their premises and carry on business. The Scottish Government, consistent with its policy of ignoring the night-time economy, has provided no such date.

"Regrettably, the very clear impressions conveyed by the Scottish Government is that it does not care about night-time businesses and, therefore, their employees, suppliers and patrons.

"Concerningly, the Scottish Government’s views on the night time economy appear to the NTIA to now be exerting an unlawful influence on its decision and law making.

"This has manifested itself in the unwarranted exclusion of night-time businesses from the Government’s so-called “road-map” out of lockdown.

"Consistent with the Scottish Government’s apparent views of this important part of our economy, the night time industry is being actively excluded and deliberately left behind.

The lawyers are seeking the evidential basis which has been used to justify the "discriminatory" treatment of night time businesses.

The NTIA has claimed that the majority of night time businesses could permanently close within weeks after running out of money to pay furlough contributions and fixed costs.

The Herald on Sunday revealed last weekend that the NTIA would have to consider a court challenge if urgent action is not taken.

HeraldScotland:

Photo:Brian Sweeney

And yesterday it confirmed it had no choice but to take the matter to the courts with concerns over a lack of action to support bars, pubs, nightclubs, live music venues, festivals and businesses in their supply chain.

The NTIA said the Scottish Government's latest Strategic Framework update confirmed businesses will be subject to the “commercially unviable levels system of restrictions” despite financial support being withdrawn by the end of April.

The Scottish Hospitality Group which represents 200 businesses across Scotland has also lambasted the over-restrictive trading times for pubs and restaurants.

The Monday opening has meant that alcohol can only be served outdoors till 10pm. But no alcohol can be served indoors, where there is an 8pm curfew, even with food.

Analysis by the CGA and AlixPartners Market Recovery Monitor, has revealed nearly 1000 licensed premises in Scotland had already shut in the year to January with the numbers dipping below the 10,000 mark.

The Scottish Night Time Economy comprises over 1500 businesses and according to the NTIA generates £1.6bn per year into the national economy.

Businesses contribute more than £600m per year in tax revenue to government coffers.

HeraldScotland:

An recent NTIA survey of businesses when asked to rate Government support on a scale of 1 to 10 gave ministers a score of just 2.8.

Some 85% said they will not survive if social distancing, activity, and opening hours restrictions continue for most of this year.

Responding to concerns raised by the hospitality industry, an SNP spokesman said: "The SNP are completely focussed on getting Scotland through and out of the pandemic, with immediate plans to support and protect jobs.

"We fully appreciate the difficulties the pandemic has brought on the hospitality sector. That is why we have spent millions of pounds in monthly support payments throughout lockdown, and have now committed to scrapping business rates for a whole year.

"The Scottish Government have also, just this week, provided businesses with additional funds to help meet the costs of reopening - either £7,500 or £19,500, which is more than the UK government are currently offering.

"We have all longed for the day that normality returns to our lives, which is why it is a hugely positive step that the hospitality sector has reopened its doors - but we cannot rush this process.