THE Scottish Government hopes to reopen the country’s tourism industry by July 15.

The bid to save Scotland’s summer will include a “domestic visitor marketing campaign” urging tourists to see the sights a little closer to home.

But the proposal comes as a row grows over the strict two metre social distancing gap.

One of the First Minister’s most trusted economic advisers has called for it to be cut in half.

However, the scientific advice is that the two metre rule remains essential.

Speaking in Holyrood yesterday, Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing told MSPs that while the pandemic had “presented challenges across the entirety of the Scottish economy” it was “very clear there are exceptional circumstances facing this sector that must be recognised”. Ewing said he hopes the sector can be given the go-ahead for reopening next month.

He said: “As things stand just now, our hope is that we will be able to give the go-ahead to a reopening of the sector at the July 9 review.

“Assuming this does prove possible some time would then be required for interconnected services, such as transport to prepare.

“On that basis, and on the clear understanding with the industry that nothing can be absolutely guaranteed at this stage, and that we may need to change this date if the evidence requires it, we would encourage tourism and hospitality businesses to prepare within appropriate

safety guidelines for reopening on July 15.

“For the reasons I’ve set out this timetable is by necessity both provisional and conditional. But we very much hope it can be met.”

Ewing said he and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes have been in touch with Chancellor Rishi Sunak about extending support for tourism and hospitality businesses.

Labour’s Claire Baker said the sector has been “very hard hit” by the pandemic.

She added: “It isn’t clear if the proposal is for a blanket reopening or if we can look at a phased opening that would recognise different types of risk with different types of accommodation.”

Baker asked if campsites will be among those allowed to reopen and if hospitality will mean bars, restaurants and cafes can open their doors.

She said: “As a date has now been announced, when can people book with confidence?”

Ewing said guidance will be published next week, providing businesses with “sufficient period for preparations to be made” and allowing them to prepare for social distancing and order in PPE if needed.

Responding to Ewing’s announcement, the Scottish Tourism Alliance said it is a “hugely positive milestone”.

On Monday night, Andrew Wilson, the author of the Scottish Government’s growth commission report, took to Twitter to point out that China, Denmark, France, Hong Kong and Singapore have all implemented a one metre rule.

Wilson said: “What are they getting so wrong? Time to get the balance right! Jobs matter for health matters for jobs.”

Yesterday MSPs on Holyrood’s Covid-19 committee quizzed Gregor Smith, the Scottish Government’s chief medical officer, over the distance.

Trade body UK Hospitality says the current two metre – or six foot – gap makes it impossible for the country’s pubs and restaurants to open. Reports over the weekend suggested this could cost three million jobs.

Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon asked Smith why there was such a variety in social distancing limits.

The doctor said it was about balance and risk: “The smaller the distance between people, the less time they are able to spend within that distance before the risk of contracting Covid-19 becomes much greater.”

He continued: “The closer you are to someone, the greater the risk. If you’re at one metre, you are at much greater risk than if you are at two metres.”