THERE’S no denying that the relief felt by Scotland’s embattled hospitality sectors after Tuesday’s announcement from the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, when she surprisingly went against the grain and ruled out extending her government's discredited Covid vaccine passport scheme across pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres, was as welcome as it was profound.

Ever since her doom-mongering Grinch John Swinney announced, just over a fortnight ago, that he was considering rolling this scheme out across the rest of hospitality, anxious and perplexed operators have been living in a state of fear, worrying themselves sick that this disproportionate policy would not “Save Christmas “, as his government intended, but instead make it their very last.

So, it was heartening to hear that for once, their desperate pleas for a modicum of yuletide spirit and smattering of government goodwill be shown, had not fallen on deaf ears.

It was a complete reversal of policy, brought about after stinging criticism of their laughable 70-page evidence paper, which was described as “mince “ by Lib-Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton. The document failed to demonstrate the health benefits of vaccine passports and prove that they are working. Coupled with pressure from the wider hospitality and tourism sectors, the FM was forced to climb down. She stated she had concluded an extension would not be proportionate at this stage and dropped extending the scheme from her sack of measures. This meant businesses could now look forward to a stocking-filling, till-ringing, cracker of a Christmas with some degree of certainty, instead of a chilling winter of bankruptcy and life on the dole. Something which has become a depressing reality for nearly 20,000 businesses across Scotland.

Sadly, her Christmas cheer and indeed the Scottish Government's proportionality only stretched so far, and Santa Sturgeon's stocking fillers were again thin on the ground for the supposed bad boys and girls of the night-time economy, the Covid lepers of hospitality – nightclubs, late opening bars with dancing and unseated live music venues with a capacity over 500.

For them, vaccine passports would remain in place for “at least a further three weeks”, which in Holyrood newspeak probably means an eternity.

Begging the question, if the scheme is not being extended across hospitality because the case numbers are dropping, then why are they not also being scrapped for the night-time economy, especially when there is not a scrap of medical evidence to justify having them at all? Why indeed?

They were fed a slim morsel of slightly overcooked turkey when she announced that from 6th December, a recent negative LFT (Lateral Flow Test) result would also be allowed as an alternative entry condition to vaccination passports.

Why the change of heart? It all seems a bit too little, too late. For well over a year, trade bodies SCMIT, NTIA and SLTA have vigorously lobbied the Scottish Government for the introduction of LFT, a position strongly supported by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, only for their requests to be continually denied, dissed, or ignored.

They were deemed an acceptable entry requirement for the Euro 2020 Fan Zone, TRNSMT and for the favoured elite of COP26 but not for the ordinary people of Scotland. With our Cabinet Health Secretary Humza Yousaf implying that we couldn’t be trusted as the results could be “falsified”. Well now it seems, we can.

You couldn’t make it up, yet they still are, and this constant tinkering with policy, meddling, and deliberately keeping everybody on the edge over Covid is hamstringing business, stagnating recovery, as well as disenfranchising, and polarising large swathes of the electorate and in turn eroding confidence in government.

So, excuse me, if am not gleefully rushing out the traps as other senior trade figures were quick to do, armed with gushing platitudes and expressions of gratitude, to prostrate and bask in the warm glow of the First Ministers benevolence.

Because as it stands, this is only a reprieve, the threat of a roll-out, the unnecessary warnings of further restrictions, and even more stringent infringements being placed on our civil liberties are still being made. I won’t have reasons to be cheerful until they’re lifted and the disproportionate crushing of our freedoms have completely ended.

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