Police Scotland officers will from Sunday have the power to serve emergency closure orders on any licensed premises refusing to close during the coronavirus outbreak.
Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham praised the “exceptionally high level of compliance” across the country from pubs, clubs, restaurants, gyms and other venues following the advice.
Both the Scottish and UK Governments urged licensed entertainment venues to close on Friday as part of efforts to encourage social distancing and halt the spread of Covid-19.
The Police Scotland deputy criticised the “small number of public houses… intent on defying this instruction” who have reportedly said they will remain open until legally ordered to close.
A compulsory closure under the Licensing Scotland Act remains in place for 24 hours but can be repeated as necessaryDCC Malcolm Graham
Mr Graham said: “This is absolutely reckless and endangers not only the lives of customers, but wider communities, in an extremely fast moving and unprecedented situation where both the health and safety of the nation is at stake.
“Therefore, I have obtained further legal advice today and Police Scotland will now instruct officers to serve emergency closure orders on any licensed premises which refuses to comply on the grounds of the threat posed to public safety.
“Officers are now visiting these premises today to have them closed.
“A compulsory closure under the Licensing Scotland Act remains in place for 24 hours but can be repeated as necessary.”
He added: “We will also report them to their relevant Licensing Board for further action to be considered.
“We are aware of the proposed legislation in relation to coronavirus, and are carefully considering the implications in this very fast moving situation.
“These are exceptional times and I would again urge everyone to stay safe and listen to the clear advice coming from health experts and government.”
Pubs, restaurants and other venues show exceptionally high level of compliance with govt instruction to close, but @DCCMGraham â police lead for #coronavirus - instructs officers to serve emergency closure orders on handful of pubs defying advice pic.twitter.com/nKuA4s8BoQ— Police Scotland (@policescotland) March 22, 2020
Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “I am fully supportive of the enforcement action taken today which is entirely proportionate to the threat posed to the safety of Scotland’s communities.
“I have a clear, positive duty to both protect life and improve the safety and wellbeing of people across Scotland, while supporting the government and health agencies in our fight against this pandemic.”
The warnings come as Nicola Sturgeon reiterated measures were put in place to save lives and warned pubs remaining open would “put lives at risk”.
While 416 people in Scotland have tested positive – with 10 deaths – the First Minister said this was an underestimate of the true number of people with the virus.
My thanks to the vast majority of pubs etc that have complied with @scotgov request to close. Iâm seeing some suggestions on here that a small minority might not be complying. If thatâs true, make no mistake...lives are at risk as a result. Please do the right thing now.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) March 21, 2020
Ms Sturgeon said: “I want to leave people in no doubt about how serious the situation we face is and how vital it is that everyone, businesses and individuals, follow the advice that has been issued.
“Last night a tiny minority of pubs however stayed open. Let me be blunt – in doing so they put lives at risk.
“My message to them is close now. We will have emergency powers in days to force you to close and we will use these powers if we have to.
“But you should not wait for that. You should do the right thing and help us save lives.”