DESPERATE business bosses staged a protest at prolonged closures which have left their soft play companies on the brink of collapse.

Staff from the Pandamonium Centre in Erskine joined dozens of hard-up business owners outside Holyrood yesterday to put pressure on the Scottish Government to lift restrictions.

The team had been looking forward to welcoming families back through the doors this week after being closed since March last year due to coronavirus rules.

But with Renfrewshire remaining in Level 2 while swathes of the country shifted down a tier on Monday, the venue has remained shut, with its future now hanging in the balance.

Workers voiced their frustration as they urged ministers to let them open up their venues and have a “fighting chance” at saving the industry.

Owners are threatening legal action over restrictions and are demanding scientific evidence that soft play centres are unsafe be published.

Pandamonium manager Jennifer McNaughton revealed she had lost around half her team since lockdown began and the centre has been getting into more debt as the weeks go by.

The Gazette: Jennifer McNaughton, manager at the Pandamonium soft play centre, hopes kids will be able to return soonJennifer McNaughton, manager at the Pandamonium soft play centre, hopes kids will be able to return soon

She said she is “disgusted” it has had to remain shut while a Euro 2020 fanzone in Glasgow Green has been given the green light to open this week.

“We have been shut for more than 15 months and we are getting more and more into debt,” said the mum-of-two.

“Centres in the rest of the UK have all opened up now and some in Scotland have opened because of going down to level one.

“There just doesn’t seem to be any consistency in what the Scottish Government is saying. It’s absolutely disgusting a fanzone is being opened up in Glasgow and we are still not allowed to open.

“We’ve been told it’s because we’re multi-generational but that’s not a scientific reason.

“I’ve lost more than half my team because they’ve had to look for jobs elsewhere. Why would they stay when they don’t know what the future holds?

“If someone actually gave us some scientific reasons, we would back down – but that’s not happened.

“It’s shocking the way we have been treated. We are calling on the government to allow soft play centres to open in level two to give us a fighting chance at saving our industry.”

The whole of Scotland was originally due to move into Level 1 this week but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon opted to keep 13 council areas in Level 2 amid concern around rising coronavirus case numbers.

Trampoline parks and ten-pin bowling centres have been allowed to reopen in Level 2 but soft play has been lumped in the same category as nightclubs, which Jennifer insists makes no sense.

She said it was vital families were able to get back into centres which can be a boost for both children and parents.

“Children need unstructured play for their mental health and parents cannot wait to come back to the centre for just five minutes of rest and a wee chat and coffee,” Jennifer added.

“We need to see the science now and we want to speak to people like Nicola Sturgeon who are at the table making these decisions.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We do not underestimate the significant impact this pandemic has had on soft play centres.

“The soft play centres in level one and zero areas can now reopen in line with updated guidance published on May 28. The Finance Secretary announced up to £12million additional funding for the 14 local authorities that are remaining in level two, including £100,000 for soft play centres which remain closed.

“As with all infection prevention measures, we will only have these restrictions in place as long as is necessary. We have always said we will keep plans under review and accelerate the lifting of restrictions if possible and we will continue engaging with the soft play sector on this.”