Public Health Scotland’s Public Health Science director Dr Nick Phin said postponing plans would help “protect ourselves”.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government announced its 2022-2023 Budget, which included business rates relief for the hospitality, retail and leisure industries to continue at 50% for the first three months of 2022/2023.
However, trade bodies for the Scottish hospitality sector have outlined how festive bookings are being affected and one said the Budget “offered little help to our beleaguered sector”.
UKHospitality executive director for Scotland Leon Thompson said: “Hospitality businesses in Scotland are already under severe financial pressure and the advice from Public Health Scotland for people to abandon their plans for Christmas parties is already hitting our sector hard.
“Within minutes of the statement being issued, businesses were receiving cancellations, leaving Christmas and Hogmanay trade in tatters.
“Businesses take up to a third of their annual revenue at this time of year. Public Health Scotland has single-handedly jeopardised the survival of businesses and the jobs people rely on.”
Thompson called for support from the Scottish Government, “not punishment” for the sector.
He added: “This came just after the delivery of the Scottish Budget, which offered little hope to our beleaguered sector.
“However, with little financial support on offer, the Scottish Government is still happy to start considering a tourist tax again, burdening our sector further.
“We need support and a joined-up approach from our Government – not punishment. Hospitality businesses across the country are justified in feeling outraged.”
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) welcomed the announcement that hospitality businesses will continue to benefit from business rates relief.
However, this came with a warning that the 50% rate relief for the next quarter doesn’t go far enough to ensure businesses across the sector including pubs have a chance to continue their long recovery from the pandemic, the body stated.
More targeted support
SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “Just when hospitality businesses were beginning to get back on their feet, along comes the Omicron variant to throw a spanner in the works so the news in the Scottish Budget is a welcome step towards aiding our recovery, but more targeted support will be needed.
“People are understandably nervous about going out and about pre-Christmas and despite the efforts of the sector to provide a controlled and one of the safest environment settings possible, this has resulted in a raft of cancellations of festive drinks, lunches and nights out.
“The gains many were hoping for during this key trading period will not be what businesses were hoping for and indeed, needed for their survival.
“However, as we have previously pointed out, there is an urgent need for a change to the current system of business rates as it is clear the current system penalises hospitality businesses and is no longer fit for purpose in a world of online sales and the advantages some sectors, supermarkets for example, have enjoyed during the lockdowns and periods of restricted opening for hospitality.”