COVID-19: Business Closures in Scotland

This version issued 22/04/2020 and replaces that issued 30/03/2020

Why are some businesses being closed?

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, wellbeing and economic future.

As such the Scottish Government advises all business premises, sites and attractions to close now unless:

  • essential to the health and welfare of the country during this crisis; or
  • supporting (or being repurposed to support) essential services; or
  • capable of working in a way which is fully consistent with established social distancing advice; or
  • wider public health, health and safety or other considerations apply and require a facility or service to continue to operate or a specific period of time for a safe shutdown process to be completed.

On 23rd March the government stepped up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and save lives. All businesses and premises outlined in the table below must now close. Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational in line with guidance. Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal.

What is Critical National Infrastructure?

Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sectors define those facilities, systems, sites and networks necessary for the functioning of the country and the delivery of the essential services upon which daily life in Scotland depends. Essential services are the fundamental services that underpin daily life and ensure the country continues to function. There are 13 designated CNI sectors (Energy; Communications – Telecommunications, Public Broadcast, Postal Services, Internet; Government; Transport; Finance; Civil Nuclear; Defence; Chemicals; Space; Government; Health; Food; Water and Waste; Emergency Services) but not everything and everybody within a national infrastructure sector is 'critical'.

Even where businesses are in the CNI category and judge themselves to be exempt from closure of business premises, it is imperative that they keep open only those premises or parts of premises that are truly critical or essential to the national COVID effort (e.g. keep a milk production line premises open but related logistics staff work from home wherever possible and non-essential staff must work from home; while it is important to keep the financial system operating so that the public can access money, not all bank branches or offices will need to stay open and many staff will be able to work from home).

Business should look critically at their role and operations. Non-essential business sectors – like construction (unless it is essential construction, such as a hospital) – should close unless and until we can all be clear how operations can be undertaken safely. Scottish Government will work with the sector - and others - to consider if it is possible to produce appropriate guidance on that specific point. Unless and until such guidance is issued, non-essential construction sites should stay closed.

I’m thinking about remaining open for business, what do I need to consider?

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.

How long is this likely to last?

The UK and Scottish Governments will these measures in three weeks, around the 13th of April. This review will consider their necessity and effectiveness in light of changing circumstances.

Which businesses, premises or places have to close?

The following table lists the non-essential businesses which must now shut. This list is common across the four nations of the UK:

Business, premises or place


Food and drink

Restaurants and public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments.

Food delivery and takeaway can remain operational and can be a new activity supported by the new permitted development right. This covers the provision of hot or cold food that has been prepared for consumers for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers off the premises.

Cafés and canteens

Food delivery and takeaway can remain operational (and as above).

Cafés and canteens at hospitals, care homes or schools; prison and military canteens; services providing food or drink to the homeless.

Where there are no practical alternatives, other workplace canteens can remain open to provide food for their staff and/or provide a space for breaks. However, where possible, staff should be encouraged to bring their own food, and distributors should move to takeaway. Measures should be taken to minimise the number of people in the canteen at any one given time, for example by using a rota.

Nightclubs and bars in hotels or members’ clubs



Hairdressers, barbers, beauty and nail salons, including piercing and tattoo parlours


Massage parlours


All retail with notable exceptions:

• Supermarkets and other food shops

• Health shops

• Medical services (such as dental surgeries, opticians and audiology clinics, physiotherapy clinics, chiropody and podiatry clinics, and other professional vocational medical services)

• Pharmacies and chemists

• Petrol stations

• Bicycle shops

• Hardware shops

• Veterinary surgeries and pet shops

• Corner shops and newsagents

• Off-licenses and licensed shops selling alcohol, including those within breweries

• Laundrettes and dry cleaners

• All Post Offices

• Car rental services and car parks in towns, cities and near to takeaways may remain open, to facilitate essential activity (e.g. where they are supporting hospitals, supermarkets or takeaways)

• High street banks, building societies, short-term loan providers, credit unions and cash points

• Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop off points

• Public toilets

Outdoor and indoor markets, shopping centres

Market stalls which offer essential retail, such as grocery and food.

Shopping centres should stay open if they contain units which are not required to close.

Auction houses


Car showrooms

Car garages and repair shops.


Hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites and boarding houses for commercial use

Where people live in these as interim abodes whilst their primary residence is unavailable they may continue to do so.

Key workers, permanent residents, and non-UK residents who are unable to travel to their country of residence during this period can continue to stay in hotels or similar where required.

People who are unable to move into a new home due to the current restrictions can also stay at hotels.

Where hotels, hostels, and B&Bs are providing rooms to support homeless and other vulnerable people such as those who cannot safely stay in their home, through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies, they may remain open.

Hotels are allowed to host blood donation sessions.

Caravan parks/sites for commercial uses

Where people live permanently in caravan parks or are staying in caravan parks as interim abodes where their primary residence is not available, they may continue to do so.

Non-residential Institutions



Community centres, youth centres and similar

For the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public services, such as food banks, homeless services, and blood donation sessions.

We will do everything to support vulnerable people who are without a network of friends and families.

Places of worship

Funerals, where the congregation is immediate family (with provision for a carer, if required) or a friend - in the case that no family members are attending. A distance of two metres is to be maintained between every household group, as per public health guidelines.

A minister of religion, to go to their place of worship, including to broadcast an act of worship to people outside the place of worship, whether over the internet or otherwise

For the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public service, such as food banks, homeless services, and blood donation sessions.

Cinemas, theatres and concert halls

Live streaming of a performance by a small group could be permissible where Public Health England guidelines are observed.

Blood donation sessions would also be allowed to be held at these venues.

Assembly and Leisure

Museums and galleries


Bingo halls, casinos and betting shops




Indoor skating rinks


Fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres

Leisure centres may stay open for blood donation sessions.

Arcades, bowling alleys, soft play centres and similar


Outdoor Recreation

Enclosed spaces in parks, including playgrounds, sports courts and pitches, and outdoor gyms or similar


Why have these businesses been made to close?

These premises and other venues must close as they involve prolonged close social contact, which increases the chances of infection spreading.

Providers of funeral services such as funeral directors and funeral homes conducting funerals may remain open, subject to public health guidelines as mentioned in the table above.

Does my business have to close by law?

Yes, unless your business is in the list of exceptions.

What happens if I break the law?

Everyone is instructed to comply with the rules issued by the Scottish and UK Governments in relation to coronavirus, in order to protect both themselves and others.

These restrictions are in force by law as of 1915 hours 26th March by virtue of The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (pdf).

These rules have the force of law. Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers, with the support of Police Scotland, will be empowered to take whatever action is necessary to enforce a legal closure or restriction. Failure to comply with the law could result in unlimited fines.

What do I have to do if I remain open?

Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow public health guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).

How do I apply social distancing rules in my business premises?

The law on social distancing now applies even if members of the public are not admitted. Premises permitted to remain open for business or service delivery must, by law:

(a) take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer),

(b) take all reasonable measures to ensure that it only admits people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance,

(c) take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any person waiting to enter its premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer).

What about food takeaway and delivery services?

These businesses should remain open and operational.

This means people can continue to enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers. Businesses are encouraged to take orders online or by telephone, and businesses should not provide seating areas, indoors and outdoors, for customers to consume food and drink on. Ordering in advance is strongly encouraged to avoid waiting in, as per Public Health England guidelines.

Planning regulation has been changed to enable restaurants, cafés and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so. People must not consume food or drinks on site at restaurants, cafés or pubs whilst waiting for takeaway food. Those venues offering takeaway or delivery services must not include alcoholic beverages in this list if their licence does not already permit.

Can I do off-sales or delivery sales of alcohol?

To ease the burden on licensed premises at this time, the licensing board has advised that it will look favourably on premises looking to start a home delivery service.  If you intend starting this service from your premises you must have Off-Sales recorded at Question 3 of the premises licence operating plan and follow the requirements ofdistance and online sales of alcohol; advice is on the Council’s website at  Premises can start deliveries immediately but must make a variation application to the next licensing board meeting to have the details recorded in the operating plan.  The variation application must include an update to Question 5(f) of the operating plan detailing that home deliveries will be an additional activity, with wording similar to –

“Delivery of food and alcohol.  All deliveries/collections will be in accordance with the provisions of Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. Deliveries/collections containing alcohol will be subject to challenge 25 age verification.

Here’s the legal bit –

  1. You cannot sell alcohol for Off-Sales outwith these hours 10:00 and 22:00.
  2. You can take orders at any time, but the sale (financial transaction) must take place between 10:00 and 22:00 (statutory hours)
  3. You can deliver at any time other than between Midnight and 06:00 (statutory requirement).

You must complete a variation application form and operating plan. These are available on the Council’s website  Both should be completed and submitted to the licensing board with the application fee of £160.00.  When you are ready to submit your application, please contact Kelly Coffield at the licensing office on 01546-604355.  Kelly will assist with processing your application and payment of fee.

I drive a taxi or a private hire vehicle, can I continue doing that?

Yes. There is guidance for the transport sector on The following advice is based on that guidance:

Think about asking about symptoms before a passenger is picked up. 

In line with current guidance people with a new persistent cough or high temperature should stay at home. If potential passengers have symptoms, direct them to NHS 111 and advise them not to make the journey.

Where possible, ask all passengers to sit in the back of your vehicle.

Keep your vehicle clean to reduce the impact of the virus

• Regularly clean surfaces, such as card payment devices, steering wheels, handbrake, door handles, with normal cleaning products. (At the beginning, middle and end of a shift as a minimum)

• Carry a box of tissues and use tissues to catch coughs and sneezes

• Dispose of used tissues in the bin as soon as possible

• Wash hands frequently with soap and water (you can keep a bottle of water and a bar of soap in your vehicle) or use a sanitizer gel - do this for at least 20 seconds. Sanitizer gel should be a minimum 60% alcohol.

Should I wear a face mask?

Face masks have limited use beyond the health and care settings and are not particularly effective elsewhere. Checking that your passengers are healthy, keeping your vehicle clean and looking after your own personal hygiene will be more useful.

Can tradespeople still work in peoples’ homes?

Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. Again, it will be important to ensure that public health guidelines, including maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Health Protection Scotland can provide advice to tradespeople and households.

No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

I’m a self-employed gardener or window-cleaner, can I still work?

The Scottish Government’s advice is that for some – self-employed gardeners, window cleaners, or those working in rural areas – where there is no contact – if you can practise safely, then this could be good for the community, but safety and social distancing must come first.

Can people still come to my holiday accommodation?

No. The Regulations state clearly that a person who is responsible for carrying on a business consisting of the provision of holiday accommodation, whether in a hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartment, home, cottage or bungalow, campsite, caravan park or boarding house, must cease to carry on that business during the emergency period.

There are some very limited exceptions, as set out in the Table and the Scottish Government’s online guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): Caravan sites and holiday parks.

Where can I get more advice?

The Scottish Government’s webpages on COVID-19, including all guidance, is at

Advice on substantive support packages available for business and their employees is at

If you run a business, you can also get advice by calling the helpline: 0300 303 0660.  It is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm. Select option 1 to speak to the COVID-19 team.