Comment: Stephen Montgomery SHG – Change at the top

Stephen Montgomery

Graeme and Maureen Harris celebrated 50 years of owning and operating the Original Rosslyn Inn last month. Now that’s a positive story to start off with this month. I was honoured to have been invited along on Monday night to celebrate with them, and it was a great opportunity to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for a few years.

32B5C4D5-EFEA-445C-983C-1EA5C9A8D3E4Time passes, but the personalities are still there, doing what they do best, telling stories of the old days of hospitality, and what it was like “back then”, but what struck me was the passion that their son Richard has for the family business, and his plans for the future, and I wish them many more years of success. Last month saw a massive change in Scotland with the resignation and stepping down of Nicola Sturgeon, and the election of a new First Minister in Humza Yousaf. This is now the time when Scottish Government and the hospitality sector must reset its relationship with each other, and this was our ask when we met with Minister Ivan McKee.

The last 3 years have seen the hospitality sector ripped apart at the seams. From the issues of Covid, to recruitment, rising supplier costs, and then the exponential rise in energy costs, where the support for this is about to more or less end, and we haven’t had time to catch our breath. On top of this we have seen the failure to pass on the 75% discount on our business rates, which our colleagues in England and Wales will see for 2023/24, even after £222M was given to Scottish Government in compensation for this through the Barnett formula, and now also facing the ill-thought-out launch of the Deposit Return Scheme, followed closely by the consultation on the ban on alcohol advertising.

Therefore, it is now clearly not a wish, but a simple ask, that the new First Minister commits to working with the sector for the better of Scotland PLC. The way to start this, and to cast a positive message, is to clear the table of any further up and coming policies effecting the sector and pause the Deposit Return Scheme.

AFDDE40F-02B5-4320-8102-7F47D9BEACAEIf Minister Slater is adamant and chooses to push ahead with the scheme launch, then we need to make sure that long hard discussions continue between the Government, Minister Slater, CSL and industry. The Scottish Hospitality Group have been engaging with CSL and have put forward many suggestions along with solutions to the issues we see in the scheme, and we would urge the new First Minister and his new team, to take these suggestions seriously.

We have asked Minister Slater on several occasions to meet with us, and jointly with other trade associations, but to date, there has been no date set, however we are in communication with her office, to make sure that several meetings can be secured.

There also must be a commitment to look to reform the way that business rates are set in Scotland. Whilst we always hear that we have the lowest poundage rate in the UK, there can be no hiding from the fact that whilst that may be true, we also have the highest ratable values in the UK, meaning that the rates payable is also higher, which effectively wipes out the fact we have the lowest poundage rate.

There is so much positivity and ambition within hospitality in Scotland, with many entrepreneurial people bursting with energy and ideas for expansion, and with a few tweaks, proper discussions, meaningful dialogue, and being set free from the financial and policy shackles, we would, without any doubt see Scotland’s hospitality sector grow.

The Scottish Hospitality Group look forward to working closely with the new First Minister and his appointed team and look forward to discussing our visions for hospitality with him for the years ahead.


Category: News
Tags: First Minister, Humza Yousaf, Ivan McKee, Rosslyn Inn, Stephen Montgomery