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Fiona Hyslop MSP
Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Fair Work and Culture

21st April 2021

As the current restrictions are eased it is important to consider how we support the public and businesses to re-engage in activities in as safe a way as possible. As part of that we have been reviewing how all public settings e.g. theatre venues, places of worship and business premises, should risk assess and manage capacities to ensure appropriate physical distancing is possible.

To support those considerations Scottish Government officials recently published draft guidance on how public settings in general can calculate their maximum capacity when taking into account the current physical distancing requirements at 2m or 1m, depending on the setting.

Many businesses have been working under restrictions for over a year now and this guidance builds on the existing good practice that has been developed, to keep the public and staff as safe as possible. There has been intense and detailed work with various key sectors in producing workplace guidance which is and continues to be the main basis for operation in the latest easing of restrictions.

We recognise the pressures many businesses have been facing and will continue to face as they work to operate in a sustainable way, these businesses are vital to our economy and it is imperative we work together in partnership to ensure they can re-open viably to keep businesses in operation and to protect jobs.

Appropriate physical distancing is a key element to making premises safer and I recognise that businesses have already worked hard to ensure appropriate distancing is in place. Indeed many businesses are already working closely with local regulators to ensure that their premises are adjusted as effectively as possible to manage the risk posed by COVID.

I would ask businesses to continue to risk assess their premises to ensure they are as safe as they can be. The recently published draft guidance on Physical Distance based capacity (PDBC) was intended by Government officials to support rather than replace that ongoing work by providing a methodology for calculating the physical distanced capacity of a public setting in any situation.

The methodology they produced was intended to be illustrative rather than prescriptive and aims to provide a framework for public settings in general to consider how many people can safely physically distance in any given space. Clearly there are settings where the public or customer will gather in different rather than fixed configurations and therefore the capacity will by necessity be more fixed in some settings than others. That is why capacity calculation in the guidance can only be illustrative as each location will differ.

I realise that this new draft guidance from officials has caused some concern across a range of sectors who may have had the impression that this guidance had been asking for businesses to adjust their premises to deal with different rules. This was absolutely not their intention.

Ministers have made clear that the rules on physical distancing have not changed. The only new ask for businesses is to display their maximum capacity with physical distancing. This is to foster consumer confidence generally for all places and settings where the public will increasingly be able to gather and to help support a safe working environment. Local regulators would only have cause to question premises capacity if there are concerns that physical distancing is not being maintained or there is evidence of overcrowding on the premises.

We recognise the confusion and concern which has been caused by the lack of clarity around this which is why I was keen to write to you to make it clear that this guidance does not change the guidance which many businesses have been working to since last year.

Officials will adjust the draft guidance based on the feedback received and to provide greater clarity on these issues.
I hope that this allays any concerns that you or your members may have. I look forward to continue working with you as we reopen the economy in as safe a way as possible.

Kind regards,

Fiona Hyslop