FORCING Scotland's bars to close at 10pm will lead to a surge in “unregulated illegal gatherings and crowded house parties," pub bosses have warned. 

Speaking after Nicola Sturgeon announced new restrictions on hospitality in a bid to curtail rising coronavirus cases, the Night Time Industries Association Scotland warned that the sector was on the brink of "extinction". 

On Tuesday, the First Minister told MSPs she was trying to find a "balance" that would allow her to tackle the pandemic while still allowing businesses to trade.

However, she warned that further restrictions could not be ruled out, including possible closure if cases continued to rise. 

She told MSPs: "We will introduce a strict nationwide curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants.

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"From Friday, pubs, bars and restaurants will be required to close at 10pm.

"Now, people sometimes ask me why we don’t just close pubs again altogether - and I can understand that.

"The answer - to be frank - is that we are seeking to find a balance between action to suppress the virus and the protection of people’s jobs and livelihoods.

"If the Scottish Government had greater powers to borrow money, or the ability to extend the Job Retention Scheme, for example, it is possible that we would reach a different balance of judgment on some of these issues.

"But we don’t.

"So this decision today means we can reduce the amount of time people are able to spend in licensed premises, thereby curtailing the spread of the virus, while still allowing businesses to trade and provide jobs.

"This is the best balance for now."

Mike Grieve, the Managing Director of the Sub Club in Glasgow and Chair of the Nighttime Industries Association Scotland, called the curfew "another devastating blow for our beleaguered sector".  

He added: "We absolutely respect the need for public health to be the number one priority, but these measures simply don’t make sense. 

"The evidence is clear. The main transmission mechanism is in the home – not in hospitality settings. Public Health England figures show that only 5% of infections in early September occurred in food outlets, including restaurants and pubs.

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"With more onerous restrictions already in place in Scotland’s pubs and restaurants, it’s difficult to understand why this sector is attracting so much of the focus. 

"As the only country in the world with a complete ban on music, Scotland’s worldwide reputation for atmosphere in our bars, restaurants and venues is already threatened with extinction."

He predicted that the restrictions would "drive more people behind closed doors for unregulated illegal gatherings and crowded house parties."

Grieve said the sector had been "abandoned"

"At the very least, the Scottish Government should be engaging with us to examine every possible avenue for additional financial support for our businesses, and to ramp up the pressure on UK Gov. to extend the Job Retention Scheme for our sector," he added.