What a few days we have had within the trade. On Tuesday Stirling University made public a research study which in my view was an out of date, anti-alcohol piece of work, which did absolutely nothing to help the plight of our already decimated sector. What it did was totally undermine the hard work we have done to try and pave a way out of this and to try and give customers the confidence to come back to us again when we are allowed to open in a safe and proper way.
How did Stirling University think our staff would feel after reading this report? How did they think operators and staff would feel after putting so much hard work into making sure our customers were served in a safe environment, and enjoying being out socialising with their bubble or 2 groups of up to 6 people or whatever the guidance said on that particular day? How did Stirling University think operators and staff felt being criticised for doing a job that had guidance changing weekly, or daily, and more often having to adapt to guidelines which came in at 9pm on a Friday night and having to be implemented in the business on the Monday from 6am? What about the effect this had on the mental health of our staff and operators, and the constant stress we are already under financially, worrying about if we will even have a business next month. It was an out and out farce of a report that should never have even made it out the gates!
On to better news though on the announcement from Kate Forbes (thank you Kate) on Tuesday, where we were afforded rates relief for 2021/22, however, I must make everyone aware that there will be an application form to fill in for this. SHG certainly welcomes this announcement, and although it is welcomed, it must be said, that this is only the beginning of what we need to see, but it’s a good start and a safety net for many. I would like to thank all the MSPs and MPs who we have spoken to in our vast discussions and lobbying for this announcement, your help has been fully appreciated.
We now need to focus on the continuation of 5% VAT, Furlough and support, which must be directed at those who need it most, like our late night venues etc. VAT is only workable when we are trading, and it doesn’t help our wet only sites, so there is a need for a targeted support approach.
We have submitted a hospitality route map to the First Minister, and we will continue dialogue with the Scottish Government in the hope that they will this time listen to our proposals. We know there is a new Strategic Framework due to be announced, however as yet we have not seen this, and it is absolutely imperative that we are fully involved in open and constructive dialogue in the planning, preparation and execution of the reopening of our sector, and these talks and discussions need to happen now before we are staring the headlights of the elections, and everything falls silent.
Have a great weekend everyone, and stay safe.
Stephen Montgomery, Scottish Hospitality Group