The SCOTTISH Government cannot guarantee that Central Belt pubs and restaurants will be able to re-open on October 25 when a circuit breaker lockdown is lifted.

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing has also suggested that if further restrictions are needed later this year, officials could investigate “other options” that would not require all pubs and restaurants to be closed or handed restricted hours of trading.

Speaking on Sunday Politics Scotland, Mr Ewing acknowledged the hospitality restrictions imposed from Friday for 16 days were “having further serious effects for business”.

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He added: “They wouldn’t be there unless these restrictions were adjudged by the Scottish Government, on the basis of the top medical advice, to be absolutely necessary.

“Were they not in place, the worry is we would have had to go to something even more stringenst, even more tough.”

Mr Ewing pointed to an evidence paper drawn up by Scotland’s top chief clinicians which shows the “correlation in relation to gatherings of people either in hospitality settings” or when people mix in other households.

He added: “There are no absolute certainties when it comes to establishing how an individual got this virus. Absolute proof of causation doesn’t exist – correlation and evidence of correlation does exits.

“The best advice that the Scottish Government has from our experts is that when people gather together in a social setting whether it's illegal house parties or in hospitality settings, particularly where alcohol is in, that is the incidents which appears to indicate that the risk of infection of this ghastly and deadly virus is at its highest.”

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Mr Ewing was asked if he could guarantee whether pubs and restaurants in the Central Belt, forced into temporary closure, will re-open when the restrictions are due to be lifted on October 25.

He said: “I certainly can’t guarantee that in this case. I’m acutely aware of the impacts for business.”

The Tourism Secretary was also quizzed about whether the Scottish Government would move to avoid a repeat of the tough measures if the country experienced another spike in virus cases before Christmas.

Mr Ewing said: “The First Minister has made it clear that she really wishes to avoid a further lockdown as does the leadership in other parts of the United Kingdom – that is absolutely the case.

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“We are open to considering other options. We wish and we continue to have a rational dialogue with the leaders of tourism, the STA and others, in Scotland. We are very much discussing the detail of this and seeing what options are available.”

He added: “The vast majority of hospitality premises have been well managed and have spent a lot of money, time and effort and have scrupulously observed the Covid protocols and guidance to protect their staff and clientele.

“Therefore, if it is the case that further evidence and analysis shows that that well-managed hospitality setting for people getting together is conjusive of less risk than for example, chaotic, unmanaged, late-night drunken house parties, then I think that dialogue is something the Scottish Government wants to pursue on a team Scotland basis.”