Scottish pubs in 'stranglehold'

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Scotland Scottish Glasgow Edinburgh Legislation Health and safety

Pubs in the central belt of Scotland have been dealt another blow, with their closure period extended by a further week.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced pubs would not be able to reopen until 2 November.

Bars in the health board areas covering Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley, were ordered to close for 16 days from Friday 9 October.

In other parts of the country, venues have only been able to operate indoors on a very restricted basis between 6am and 6pm, serving food and non alcoholic drinks only.

New system

Sturgeon said the extension would mean a “smooth transition” to a new five tiered system of restrictions Scotland will have from next month.

The middle three tiers will be relatively similar to those currently in England. 

An extra tier at the bottom will be "the closest to normality we can reasonably expect to live with until we have a vaccine,” Sturgeon said.

The strictest level would be “not identical to but perhaps close to a full lockdown,” she added.

Scottish trade bodies said venues needed far more financial support to get through the coming months.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said the £40m promised by the Scottish Government, in addition to further funding to reflect the extension, would be “a drop in the ocean” for businesses.

Stranglehold on hospitality

Montgomery added: “Recent restrictions were framed as a ‘temporary’ short, sharp shock, but the extension is an indication that we can only expect a continued government stranglehold on hospitality that will have devastating consequences.

“We knew next week would be pivotal for many businesses as furlough comes to an end. With current restrictions remaining in place until 2 November, and no indication of what the new tier system will entail, the financial support package must be increased or countless venues will be forced to close for good, and tens of thousands of people will lose their jobs."

Potential support for Scottish pubs works out to £3,500 per venue whereas those in Manchester could receive about £31,000 per premises, according to the association.

Montgomery said: “Every business is facing a unique situation. Some operators outside the central belt have been forced to close as they cannot trade viably under the current restrictions, leaving them not eligible for full Scottish Government support or able to access the new furlough scheme. 

What’s more, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said mass job losses and permanent closures were on the horizon without additional support.

Paul Waterson, media spokesman for the SLTA, said: “Hundreds of businesses are facing permanent closure and with that thousands of jobs will be lost – the damage could be irreparable.”

The association estimates two thirds of hospitality businesses could be mothballed or go under in the coming months, with half of the jobs in the sector hanging in the balance. 

Catastrophic blow

Waterson said the £40m promised was “nowhere near enough” to save jobs and businesses.

“Yet again it is the licensed trade that is suffering and the current measures affect not just our industry but the wider economy. We are extremely disappointed,” he added.

UKHospitality executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod described the news as “another catastrophic blow” for Scottish operators.

Macleod said: “It is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to keep pace with the constant change in the restrictions they are operating within.

“Many of these businesses are barely hanging on. They have had their revenue strangled or shut off altogether and many will have little or no cash in reserve. Extending the restrictions for another week could finish off those businesses that had just about manged to formulate a plan to see them through the initial lockdown.”

UKHospitality urged the Government to outline support for businesses when it sets out its new tier system tomorrow (Thursday 22 October).

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