Stephen Montgomery’s 2021 Roundup… read what he has to say…

Stephen Montgomery

On trying to do a look back on the last year, I don’t really know where to start!

“Annus Horribilis”…that’s the only way to describe it

We have been through World War 3, without a truce, and with only a few small cease fires called, but only to gather more ammunition to start the war on the sector all over again. 

From a 3 week short sharp shock on the  9th October 2020, which will be forever known as “cafegate”, to having the Cinderella Christmas where everyone had to be at home in bed by midnight Christmas night, to where we are today;  I think it’s fair to say Hospitality have been used as collateral damage by those who impose the restrictions on us.

The summer seemed to have been a good trading season for many, as the UK braced itself for the staycation holiday makers, and for many it was a lifeline, and gave some hope of things to come

We have had recruitment issues, a pingdemic, curfews, and everything else thrown at us, and unfortunately for some it has been last orders, where doors have closed, never to reopen.

So where are we now? Well, on a positive (if there is one), we see the deposit return scheme postponed until August 2023, but currently we see ourselves back in a Deja vu 3 week short sharp shock, and hoping that it will be simply that, albeit hard to take given that Hogmanay is probably the biggest event in the Scottish calendar. Table service resumed, the rule of 3 households in guidance, the 1m distancing back between groups, and no dancing. For many of our smaller pubs, this is a closure by default, due to the nature of the restriction, and shape or seating of the venue, which ultimately relies on vertical drinking to remain viable. 

We would only hope and expect that the extra restrictions placed on our businesses and lives here in Scotland, will lead to a significantly better health outcome, however on the other side of the border in England, we would also hope that the stance the UKG has taken, in not placing any further restrictions before New Year, will bear fruit, and that this variant could be our way out.

On the funding front, we are told that the first lot of funding from the £66m will start to go out at the start of January, and that is being done as before, through the strategic framework payment system. As for the extra £275m which has come from UKT, the Scottish Hospitality Group has made it very clear to both the Scottish Government and all opposition parties, that this funding must only go to those businesses who have been directly affected and not to those who have profited through our restrictions. We are yet to be told what the monetary split will be, however it is safe to say that it must be a sizable amount.

It is now critical that the Cab Sec Kate Forbes also relooks at the rates payable for 2022/23 for hospitality, as it is clear that a 3 month reduction is not going to help in any way after the devastation of the Christmas and New Year trading. The cap must also be lifted, as for some this will equate to only a 4% saving on their annual bill

The UK Government must also turn their attention immediately to the situation facing us in April on the return to 20% VAT. SHG will of course keep up our discussions with MPs in Westminster, to lobby the UKG on this matter, and ask that a permanent VAT rate is set for hospitality.

Training is key for our sector, both for our staff and forthcoming employees. We will look to the Scottish Government on how we can work with them to improve funding available for recruitment and training. SHG are currently working with a college to put together a 12 week training program, and we hope that this will be a pilot for others. Changing the outlook of our sector is a key dynamic in changing the perception of it to others and in aiding our recruitment paths.

So, what’s ahead for the Scottish Hospitality Group?

 Well, we have certainly come a long way since we got together, and many people have benefited from the advice we have been able to share, not just within our own group, but to those out with. We have built up fantastic relationships with Ministers and MSPs within Scottish Government, along with MSPs in all opposition parties. We have also gained the respect and relationships with many MPs, through our own meetings and appearances at many Scottish Affairs Committee meetings in Westminster. 

As we enter 2022, the Scottish Hospitality Group will continue to be a voice for the trade in Scotland, continue to build our relationships with both Scottish and UK Government, and continue to be there to offer help, advice where we can, and be a friendly voice on the phone to anyone who needs just a chat.

Before I close, I would like to take the time to thank everyone within SHG for your help and support over the past year, you are all just amazing people, Susan Young for everything you do for our group and for the sector, to our suppliers who have supported us, and everyone else who we have had the pleasure of dealing with over 2021.

Lastly to everyone within the hospitality sector, I thank you for your calls, your support, and your friendly chats, and I wish you all, a very Happy, Peaceful, and Safe 2022

Regards

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Scottish Hospitality Group

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Category: Coronavirus, Editors' Picks
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