Publication - FOI/EIR release

Hotels and guest houses advice for non-essential business premises during Covid-19: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Published:
17 Jun 2020
Hotels and guest houses advice for non-essential business premises during Covid-19: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000041255
Date received: 20 May 2020
Date responded: 15 Jun 2020
Information requested

1) Have hotels and guest houses been given different advice since Nicola Sturgeon announced they had to close?

2) What advice has been given to Police Scotland who are aware of this but fail to take any enforcement action?

3) Since travel and overnight stays are not permitted under the Emergency Regulations, has any action been taken concerning people who are staying in these premises?

4) Given the risk of people travelling and staying in hotels and guest houses as far as spreading the Covid 19 virus is concerned, how is it they are being allowed to trade as normal?

Response

1) Have hotels and guest houses been given different advice since Nicola Sturgeon announced they had to close?

The guidance issued to businesses offers a clear set of principles regarding the Scottish Governments position on closure of non-essential business premises. These are aligned with Scotland’s Critical National Infrastructure and essential services that are fundamental to ensuring the country continues to function. Regulations and guidance prescribe businesses that must close by law, and all others are advised to consider whether their activities are essential or material to the effort against the virus or to the wellbeing of society or able to fully adopt social distancing requirements. All individuals and businesses that are not being specifically required to close should consider a key set of questions– and at all times work on the precautionary basis:

  • Is what you do essential or material to the effort against the virus or to the wellbeing of society?
  • if so, can your staff work from home?
  • if not can you practise safe social distancing and comply with ALL other standard health and safety requirements.

If the answer to none of the above questions is yes, our advice on a precautionary basis is to close.

In this public health crisis it is vital that all businesses act responsibly and align fully with the social distancing measures introduced to protect the nation’s heath, well-being and economic future. We acknowledge the acute challenges that businesses face and the responsible approach most are taking to protect health and wellbeing.

We know some businesses involved with essential activities will stay open after carefully considering the guidance produced. Let us stress that it cannot be business-as-usual. It is a priority that the duty of care to staff and to the wider community comes first and that social distancing is firmly applied alongside existing health and safety legislation.

The current guidance recognises the need for accommodation provision but sets out that demand be minimum and restricted to key / essential workers such as well as the groups / individuals outlined in the guidance. Accommodation providers such as hotels and guest houses can only currently accept bookings from essential workers and others in agreed exceptional circumstances. NHS or health workers are required to arrange accommodation through the NHS or appropriate local authority department.

The UK Hospitality and the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers are also maintaining lists of accommodation that can be made available, both for key workers and for those who are listed in the ‘exceptions’ section of the guidance. 

Under the current regulations, there is a potential option for accommodation to be provided for those working away from home. Regulation 4(5)(d) allows accommodation providers to provide accommodation for any purpose requested by the Scottish Ministers. This regulation was utilised to ensure that accommodation for key workers has been provided throughout lockdown so far.

2) What advice has been given to Police Scotland who are aware of this but fail to take any enforcement action?

Enforcement by Police Scotland, is on the basis of ‘last resort’ after all other forms of engagement & explaining the rules/guidance has been exhausted or, in some very limited cases of business premises, ignored.
Police Scotland are publishing details of all COVID-19 related enforcement activity, this can be found here; https://www.scotland.police.uk/about-us/covid-19-policescotlandresponse/enforcement-and-response-data
Local Authorities also play a large part in terms of supporting and enforcing any businesses around the coronavirus guidance and rules.
Police Scotland has developed operational guidance informed by both legislation and the SG guidance, including regulations for Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill which includes a provision to allow ‘travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntarily or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living,’

3) Since travel and overnight stays are not permitted under the Emergency Regulations, has any action been taken concerning people who are staying in these premises?
Where an owner, proprietor or manager carrying out a business (or a person responsible for other premises) contravenes the Regulations, that person commits an offence. 
Businesses and venues that breach these Regulations will be subject to prohibition notices, and fixed penalties. With the support of Police Scotland, prohibition notices can be used to require compliance with the Regulations including requiring that an activity ceases. 

If prohibition notices are not followed, or fixed penalty notice not paid, you may also be taken to court with potentially unlimited fines.
Police officers are provided with the power to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice to anyone over 18 including to businesses, if the officer has reason to believe an offence has been committed under the Regulations. This is an alternative to being prosecuted, and would not mean that a person had a criminal record. By accepting a fixed penalty notice, a person may discharge any liability for the offence by payment of that penalty within a specified period. The levels of fine are set at £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 28 days. This rate will increase, by doubling on each occasion, if penalties have already been issued to the same person up to a maximum of £960.

If prosecuted the maximum fine is £10,000 for individuals or businesses.

Police Scotland has reported that, to date, compliance with the regulations has generally been good.
In Police Scotland’s approach enforcement is a last resort, where engagement, explanation and encouragement to comply has failed. The Chief Constable made it clear at the outset that it is important that the policing tone and style reflects the need for positive engagement and that common sense needs to be applied by everyone.
While policing these rules, Police Scotland must maintain a positive relationship with the public, because policing in Scotland is based on public consent. It should be clear that enforcement constitutes a very small part of policing activity in this space.
The Chief Constable has assured us that the vast majority of interactions are in line with the other aspects of the 4 Es – namely the emphasis on engaging, explaining, and encouraging, and it is right that this should be the case, given our traditions of policing by consent.

It is vitally important that members of the public continue to observe social distancing. Police officers continue to be visible 24 hours a day in enforcing the regulations. Police officers will: engage, explain, encourage – and only then enforce. Officers have powers to issue a fixed penalty notice to anyone 16 or over if there is reason to believe an offence has been committed under the Regulations. This includes penalty notices to businesses where appropriate.

Any decision to prosecute those arrested will be for the Crown Office.

4) Given the risk of people travelling and staying in hotels and guest houses as far as spreading the Covid 19 virus is concerned, how is it they are being allowed to trade as normal?

Accommodation services (hotels, B&Bs, campsites and boarding houses for commercial use) must close in line with the physical distancing regulations announced on 23 March. Exceptions can be found here:  https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-phase-1-business-and-physical-distancing-guidance/ The guidance offers a clear set of principles regarding the Scottish Government’s position on closure of non-essential business premises and provides a list of the nonessential premises which must close. 

According to the guidance there will still be a need for accommodation, but demand will be minimum and restricted to key/essential workers as well as the groups/individuals outlined in the guidance. As per government guidelines to minimise the transmission of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), providers can only accept bookings from essential workers and the exceptions outlined in the link above. 

Reasonable evidence of this must be provided upon arrival. If reasonable evidence is not provided, the booking will be cancelled upon arrival.

Some accommodation providers are already offering their services to key workers. businesses are able to put themselves forward for support by contacting covid19response@gov.scot. The Scottish Government may share this information with local health boards.
UK Hospitality and the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers are also maintaining lists of accommodation that can be made available, both for key workers and for those who are listed in the ‘exceptions’ section of the guidance.

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