THE further easing of lockdown in Scotland has been welcomed by the leisure industry.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that from August 24, bingo halls, casinos and amusement arcades can re-open, some outdoor live events can take place, organised outdoor contact sports will resume for people of all ages, and driving lessons can return.

Gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports courts can re-open from August 31, brought forward from an original date of September 14.

Andy Thompson, chairman of Anytime Fitness UK, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve now been given a definite date for our clubs to reopen by the Scottish Government.

“It’s been a challenging time for us all but we’ve been preparing throughout lockdown to help our clubs introduce the necessary social distancing and cleanliness measures to keep our members safe and healthy.

“We will only allow individual clubs to open once we’re happy that they’re fully compliant with the Government’s guidelines and both our staff and members’ safety can be assured.

“We understand that not everyone will feel comfortable in returning to the gym right away, but we want to reassure them that we’re here and waiting for them whenever they’re ready.

“It has been a difficult time for our club owners financially with over five months with no income, but today marks the start of the rebuilding process and a clear pathway to getting back on their feet again.”

The Federation of Small Businesses’s Scotland policy chair Andrew McRae welcomed the reopening of leisure sites, but urged the Scottish Government to permit the reopening of non-essential offices. He said: “The more firms that can re-open their doors, the fitter the Scottish economy becomes. So it is good news that local gyms and fitness studios are likely to be putting us through our paces at the end of the month.

“However, we need ministers to consider the long-term impact of office closures. The longer offices are shut, the greater the impact on those town and city centre businesses who rely on office workers’ footfall. That not only has an impact on the firms in question, but also the viability of some local economies as a whole.”

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said staff have worked around the clock to ensure casinos will be safe to re-open.

Her said: “This is welcome news and the Scottish Government deserves credit for listening to businesses.

“Like their colleagues in England, Scottish casinos have gone above and beyond what was required of them to ensure they comply with all of the Government’s Covid guidelines.

“Scottish casino workers can now look forward to providing an excellent service to their many customers and doing their bit in supporting the UK’s economic recovery.”