Kate Forbes urged to give the £185m to the businesses that need it most

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announcement that there was to be additional funding for the hospitality industry and other businesses impacted by the Coronavirus restrictions to the tune of £185 million was welcomed by some, but slammed by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association who said, “ it is an insult to an industry sector which she herself acknowledged as a sector hardest hit during the Covid-19 pandemic” while the Scottish Tourism Alliance called for more clarity.

The Finance Secretary revealed grant schemes were being developed for hospitality, for the events sector, live music and cultural venues, for the arts, indoor football centres and for the food and drink sector, including £1.8 million for brewers. She also said, “I can also announce that further support of £60 million will be provided to the tourism sector, details of which will be developed in consultation with the industry.” And £15 million will go to the wedding sector and its supply chain. She said, “More detail on the package will be announced in the coming days and businesses can expect to apply for all the new grant schemes in January.” And continued, “In addition, there will be additional one-off payments to hospitality businesses in January to help them deal with the traditional post-Christmas dip in demand. These will be of £2,000 or £3,000, depending on rateable value.

Although all funding is welcome the one-off payments, which will not be available until January, and which are to help with the expected downturn in business in January, do not go far enough to alleviate the concerns of businesses currently in Tier 3 and in Tier 2 who have witnessed a significant loss of revenue, particularly those in Edinburgh who expected to come out of Tier 3 the previous day, and didn’t.

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) revealed that the decision to keep the City of Edinburgh in Level 3, despite the indicators showing continued improvement, could cost pub businesses up to £3.2m in lost turnover if there’s no change before January.

It’s analysis suggests that only 92 pubs in the city were open in Level 3, but if that moved to Level 2 that would increase to 277 (60% of Edinburgh’s pubs and bars).

Commenting, SBPA CEO Emma McClarkin said, “The decision to keep Edinburgh in Level 3 was absolutely heartbreaking for the 185 pubs and bars that would otherwise have been able to open and start rebuilding their trade. The Christmas and New Year periods are critical to the year-round viability of many of these businesses, and if there’s no movement at the next review point, we’ll likely see some of these pubs never reopen.

 “We estimate that £3.2 million in turnover could be lost in the city alone between now and January 1st. This will undoubtedly result in jobs losses and a knock-on impact through the supply-chain at the worst possible time.  These businesses have invested significantly in their premises to ensure that they are COVID-secure, it is simply unfair to keep moving the goalposts on them.”

While the Scottish Licensed Trade Association came out fighting saying, “The announcement of additional one-off payments of either £2,000 or £3,000 – dependent on rateable values – to hospitality businesses in January to ‘help’ them deal with the traditional post-Christmas dip in demand is as bad as hearing a Christmas cracker joke.

“The industry keeps being told by Government that our concerns are being listened to but this announcement confirms the Government needs to get a serious grip on the reality of the cataclysmic devastation facing the licensed hospitality sector and those that it employs.

“The Finance Secretary’s ‘Christmas gift’ of £2,000 or £3,000, although we will have to wait until January to get it, will at least help pay some of the recent extra lockdown costs incurred by many of Scotland’s pubs and bars – so the one-off grant has gone even before we get it.

“The announcement of a £60 million fund for the tourism sector, the details of which will be developed in consultation with the industry, will we hope include those organisations at the coalface of representing the licensed hospitality sector which is a major contributor to Scotland’s overall tourism industry.

“Some sectors supported by this new package have done better than the licensed hospitality industry and this only raises the question of why there is such disproportionality between the level of support given and the size of the sector needing financial aid. We accept that all businesses need support but surely any financial support should be directed to those hardest hit and in most need.

“The Scottish Government must therefore provide realistic financial compensation if the sector and the staff that it employs are to be here after spring 2021 and be part Scotland’s economic recovery.”

Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said, “With the majority of our industry either closed or partially open, operating mostly in an unviable, unsustainable manner with the continued restrictions, I know that all business owners will be eager to learn more of the detail and further clarity around the allocation of funds for each of our sectors, how the packages of support will be distributed, criteria for application and dates when funds will become available is of critical importance and I very much hope a subsequent announcement will be made within the next few days.

He continued, “Our industry has been left in limbo for an unacceptable period of time with no clear or helpful indication of when support will land, forcing many business owners into temporary and permanent closure to stem the daily haemorrhage of outgoings which are required to remain even partially operational during this period of restrictions.

Despite the announcement of a total package of support, I know there will be widespread disappointment and frustration from many across the industry that the detail on what level of funding businesses can expect to receive, how these funds will be distributed and when, was not made clear.”

Category: Coronavirus
Tags: Kate Forbes, SLTA