As restrictions get tougher in West Dunbartonshire, I’d like to take a moment first to remember those who have lost loved ones or have family in hospital with Covid-19.

Last week we saw major changes to the rules, with a 16 day closure of licensed hospitality businesses and restrictions to trading hours in cafes etc. Since their reopening in July, restaurants and pubs in West Dunbartonshire have been pretty exemplar in complying with the ever-changing regulations and guidance.

Back in March the lockdown was total, with health being the only consideration. The government now have the unenviable challenge of balancing health alongside jobs, business interests and preventing an economic collapse.

Several businesses received national press coverage for their peaceful and symbolic ice dumping protest, saying it represented their businesses melting away. People in the trade tell me they feel like scapegoats and I have been clear to all I speak to that since pubs and restaurants opened the trade have done everything asked of them. 

The flip-side of successful measures is the “prevention paradox”, believing that because overall case numbers are relatively low that the measures are not needed. They are lowered because of the measures put in place.

Evidence from contact tracing is showing that family clusters, friend and family gatherings and hospitality are the three highest areas of exposure, so multi household gatherings and hospitality settings are where the fight against this virus has to be.

It’s small comfort, but we are not alone, with France, Belgium, and Italy to name a few seeing closures and even more stringent restrictions.

As chair of the licensing board in West Dunbartonshire I would like to thank everyone in the trade for their continued efforts to keep their customers and the public safe and managing with rules that are tough on them. I am also grateful for the multi-agency work between licensing, environmental health and Police Scotland in advising and visiting hundreds of premises to assist.

It is fortunate that the taxpayer-funded furlough/job retention scheme is still in place until the end of this October, and the UK’s chancellor finally seems to be starting to hear what Scottish Finance Minister Kate Forbes has been saying for months now, that a surge of unemployment is looming and fiscal and monetary flexibility is needed to protect as many jobs as possible.

Let’s hope he listens and doesn’t return Scotland to a Thatcher-like era.