6. To ask the Scottish Government when it will provide updated guidance regarding weddings, in light of the importance of the wedding sector to tourism and the economy of the north-east. (S5O-04570)
The Scottish Government is aware of the difficulties that the wedding sector faces throughout Scotland and we are conscious of the contribution that it makes to the economy and people’s lives.
Throughout August, I met representatives from the sector to listen to their concerns and we are working with the sector to finalise guidance. Following the First Minister’s announcement on 20 August, I hope that we can provide any further detail soon.
Once venues are able to operate, many people who have postponed plans for weddings will come back, which will probably lead to unprecedented demand for venues, caterers, bands, florists and many others. Does the minister believe that special consideration—through an increase of the furlough period or indeed specific discretionary funding—should be given to the wedding sector?
Maureen Watt is quite right and I am acutely aware of the devastating impacts on the sector. I have spoken individually to businesses about the situation and, although the outlook is different for each, they have all been impacted really severely. Our total package of financial support—now more than £2.3 billion—has helped many businesses. We believe that the furlough should be extended and we will continue to push the UK Government to provide the support that is required for the sector.
“we hope that from 14 September, wedding and civil partnership receptions ... will be able to take place with more attendees”—[
, 20 August 2020; c 5.]
and that guidance would be issued “shortly.”
Does the cabinet secretary really think that it is acceptable that, days before 14 September and three weeks after that statement, we still have not seen any guidance? Couples will elope from Gretna Green to England to get married, instead of the other way around.
I just point Mr Smyth to—[
.] I will not comment about the elopement—I will just avoid that.
In all seriousness, we have seen the numbers of those who are infected with the virus increase all over Britain since 20 August, which none of us expected or wanted. However, all of us have to respond to that, and that consideration must be given preference at this time.
I am glad that the cabinet secretary is not bothered about elopement. Gretna Green will not be recognisable for people to get married in, because the Government has failed to deliver for the wedding industry and has left couples in limbo—people have had to put off a major life event. Why has it taken so long to put guidance in place? I raised those issues with the cabinet secretary before the summer recess; we are now months further on and people do not have details. That situation is costing jobs and costing people the chance to get married.
I have been in regular contact with businesses, not least in Gretna Green, that have had devastating impacts. I have sought to maintain that contact and will do so. I say to the member to try to bear in mind that we are in the middle of a pandemic. We have to take decisions in Government that involve people’s lives as well as their livelihoods, which is an extremely difficult balance. We are not saying that we get everything right—the First Minister has made that absolutely clear—but I ask the member to please give us credit for taking those matters extremely seriously.