New coronavirus restrictions imposed on large swathes of the Scottish hospitality sector have been branded a “catastrophe” by business leaders.
From tomorrow evening pubs and restaurants in central Scotland will be ordered to close for two weeks, while others located elsewhere will be barred from selling alcohol indoors.
The five health board areas affected by the most stringent measures – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Lothian and Ayrshire and Arran – account for around 3.4 million people.
UKHospitality executive director for Scotland, Willie Macleod, warned the measures would have a devastating impact on the whole supply chain: “This is a total catastrophe. Scottish hospitality is already on the brink and is unable to look ahead with any degree of confidence.
“Forced closures will spell the end for many, many venues which have no cash flow and will have exhausted their reserves. Severe restrictions to those businesses not forced to close will amount to a closure for many. It is likely to be the final straw for many that were only just hanging on. We are going to see businesses fold and many jobs lost.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish hospitality sector will receive a £40m support package, but Mr Macleod said it would “not nearly be sufficient” to make up for the loss in business.
Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland, said without sufficient support from government, the latest measures could spell the end for many independent pubs and restaurants.
“They’ll also cause a significant knock-on impact on our tourism sector, on our hospitality supply chain, and on those that operate in our night-time economy like taxi drivers and takeaways.
“While we welcome the announcement of a £40m package of support funding, speed is now of the essence. That’s why we will work with government to ensure that this cash reaches those businesses in the greatest need as quickly as possible, including those indirectly impacted by the changes.”
“During this crisis, many responsible business-owners feel like they’ve risen to every challenge the government has set. So it is frustrating that policymakers are focussing on further restricting business activities when they have failed to persuade a share of the general public to follow the rules.”
Nick Mackenzie, CEO of Greene King CEO, said: “Today’s shut-down of Scottish pubs is a devastating blow for the thousands of people who work in the industry. We understand that decisive action needs to be taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19. We have invested millions of pounds in ensuring that our pubs are safe and only had six Test and Protect requests from NHS Scotland in total across our 125 managed pubs since we reopened on 15 July, having served millions of customers. It is time to stop unfairly targeting pubs.
“The sector has already seen pub closures and job losses and a second shut-down will see more closures and lost jobs in every Scottish community. We welcome the acknowledgement that support is needed but are concerned that £40m won’t go far enough and urgently need to understand the detail and the speed this can be deployed.”