£100m support for Scottish hospitality but more needed

Nicola Dec14

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has freed up £100m of funding to support hospitality following her statement last week requesting that businesses cancel Christmas parties, and the decision today to announce the return of some Covid mitigations, however these remain guidance.  These include measures to avoid crowding at the bar and at tables, and a reminder that all customers are required to check in for Track and Trace. She said she hoped this money would be released to hospitality before Christmas.

The move follows representations by industry bodies including the Scottish Hospitality Group who wrote to Cabinet Secretary Kate Forbes yesterday asking for additional funding.

Nicola Sturgeon also asked Scots to minimise mixing with other households and to limit any socialising to a limit of three households this will include socialising in hospitality.

She admitted that hospitality had been dealt a “sucker punch” because of the advice issued by the government.

Just before  the First Minister stood up to speak Chancellor Rishi Sunak also confirmed that “additional funding” to tackle Covid will be made available to devolved administrations. However, it appears this is for health and not business.

Nicola Sturgeon said, “I welcome that. We have gone out of our way to find as much additional resource in our budget as we can. We will look at the impact of UK funding when we have the detail.”

She said, “A difficult time is ahead. I cannot tell you otherwise and she made this plea, “Let us pull together again and help each other through.”

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group said, “We are thankful that the Scottish Government has made £100m available for hospitality but unfortunately this money will not be enough to fill the void the sector has seen in the last five days. It is also essential that the jobs of our dedicated staff are protected and we would encourage the UK Government to revert to a furlough type scheme to give our staff the confidence that their jobs are safe.

He continues, “We were expecting the Scottish Government to go further, but as always the health and safety of our customers will always remain our top priority. To ensure this I would urge all hospitality operators to do their utmost to ensure that their customers can socialise safely in their premises.  It is essential that Track and Trace be adhered to, face masks  worn, sanitiser used, and customers and staff encouraged to use Lateral Flows. This is the best way of ensuring that Omicron spread is contained.”

He concluded, “After todays announcement, SHG look forward to working with the Scottish Government to ensure the support gets to the businesses that need it the most, and as quickly as possible. It remains a fact that unless further support is forthcoming many businesses will face closure.”

The Night Time Industries Association Scotland released this statement, “The NTIA recognises the difficult public health position. However following Public Health Scotland’s call to cancel Christmas parties last week, our sector saw £1bn of damage to December revenue as a result.  New restrictions this week will certainly cause additional economic damage and we await details from Scottish Government over the coming days. It is now vital that Government commits to fully replacing the losses being incurred by Scotland’s small businesses on a pound for pound basis.   To do otherwise puts 100,000 jobs at risk and puts the very survival of the sector in doubt.
 “The £100m fund announced today is a drop in the ocean compared to the losses already being incurred by our members and comes nowhere close to protecting the sector, the income of staff, and the survival of small Scottish businesses.  We look forward to meeting Cabinet Secretary Forbes and officials today and will seek clarity on the details of support and restrictions which must learn from previous experience and now be developed in consultation with the sector to provide workable and clear guidance.  Our members are ready to work with Scottish government to protect both lives and livelihoods and ensure the safest possible Christmas for Scotland.”

Emma McClarkin CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) commenting on the First Minister’s statement, said, “This is another a bitter blow to Scotland’s pubs. The advice to cancel Christmas parties last week already devastated the sector and these further restrictions effectively create lockdown by the backdoor.

“Pubs needed all the trade they could get this Christmas after taking on significant debts during the pandemic and without furlough support to fall back on, it is very worrying for businesses and staff.

“It is welcome that our calls for financial support have been listened to, by both the Scottish Government and the Treasury. It is critical that the amount of funding for individual businesses is confirmed and distributed to them as soon as possible. We have had discussions with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance following the statement and welcome her commitments on this.

“It is also critical that full details of the restrictions are published imminently, so businesses can understand and plan for their enforcement. Covid isolation rules are also having an impact on business viability, and we will also be raising this with Government in discussions over the next few days.”