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New funding announced

Pubs hit out at ‘lack of consultation’ on shutdown

lock on gates at bar

Locked out: pubs remain shut for another week (pic: Terry Murden)

Nicola Sturgeon has again been accused of imposing restrictions on businesses without any prior consultation.

The First Minister announced at her Wednesday briefing that pubs and restaurants across the central belt will remain closed for a further week until 2 November after Scotland recorded its highest number of coronavirus deaths since May. 

The shutdown was originally due to last for two weeks and end on 25 October but Ms Sturgeon said the measures will have to be kept in place for longer. 

She said extending the shutdown would allow for a ‘smooth’ transition to a new tiered system of restrictions, scheduled to come into effect on the same date. 

The government later announced new funding arrangements to support businesses through the extended period.

Update Thur 22: Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new package of support aimed particularly at struggling pubs, bars and restaurants. 

The lockdown extension was greeted with dismay by hospitality chiefs who warned again that some businesses could not survive without revenue or more support from government. 

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Paul Waterson, media spokesman for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said: “We expected this so we are not surprised.

“However, yet again there has been no consultation with the industry and as we said earlier this month, we believe these measures to be cataclysmic for hospitality operators.

“Hundreds of businesses are facing permanent closure and with that thousands of jobs will be lost – the damage could be irreparable.”

A recent survey highlighted that nearly 40% of hospitality businesses were considering closure or business exit. In September, an SLTA survey of 600 on-trade premises highlighted that within the pub and bar sector, 12,500 jobs could go.

Mr Waterson added: “We estimate that two-thirds of hospitality businesses could be mothballed or go under in the coming months.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘I know this is harsh’

“Over 50% of jobs in the pub and bar sector could also be lost which will have a particularly deep impact on the employment of young people as over 40% of staff employed are under the age of 25.”

Reiterating that responsible operators continue to run safe, carefully monitored establishments, he said: “Our industry is in serious trouble and it is only going to get worse.

“The £40 million financial support package is nowhere near enough to save jobs and prevent operators from going under.

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“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.”

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: “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 have repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to work with us on a solution to safeguard an industry that is the third biggest employer in the country.”

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chairman, said: “We asked Ministers to clarify whether the current hospitality restrictions would be lifted next week. Hopefully, today’s announcement has come early enough to prevent independent pub and restaurants ordering unnecessary stock, disappointing customers or confusing staff.

“However there’s no hiding the fact that today’s extension won’t go down well with many firms. 

“And while it is welcome news that extra grant help will be provided, this will mean modifying a scheme that only opened to applications yesterday.”

Jo Crawford, Scotland director for real ale and pubs group CAMRA, described the extension as “a hammer blow” to pubs and breweries across the country. 

“These businesses feel like they are being offered up as a sacrificial lamb without sufficient evidence that pubs – who have done everything they have been asked to track and trace customers and make their venues COVID-secure – are responsible for transmission of the virus,” he said.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “This short term, reactive approach is no longer enough. Where is the plan that we can all get alongside to help Scottish Government to both manage the virus and ensure the economy can also return to health?”

Ms Sturgeon made clear she believed the extension of the measures was necessary after Scotland recorded a further 28 Covid-19 deaths and an additional 1,739 cases – the highest number of fatalities since 21 May. 

The hospitality rules banned the sale of alcohol inside pubs and restaurants nationwide and imposed a 6pm curfew on all indoor hospitality premises. 

The total closure of hospitality venues applies to five hotspot health board areas in the central belt.

The government later announced that more funding will be made available for businesses affected by the extension of temporary restrictions. Funding for business grants over this period will be increased proportionately.

The COVID-19 Restrictions Fund will now provide one-off grants of up to £4,310 to businesses required to close by regulations.

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For businesses that may remain open but are directly impacted by the restrictions, the maximum hardship fund grant will increase to £2,155.

Additionally, grants of £1,650 will help those firms that are required to close to help meet the 20% employer’s contribution that they are required to pay under the current UK Government furlough scheme.

These one-off grants are for the period until 2 November only and will be replaced by a new system of business support to complement the “levels” approach due to be debated in Parliament next week.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “We continue to pursue urgent discussions with the Treasury about the provision of adequate support and funding to support businesses and individuals through the kinds of restrictions that are likely to be necessary in the period ahead.”

I want to stress again that none of these decisions are being taken lightly

– Nicola Sturgeon

Speaking earlier at her daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged that the extension of the rules is ‘harsh’.

“I want to stress again that none of these decisions are being taken lightly,” she said. “This is all about trying to save lives and minimise the health damage that we know this virus is capable of doing.”

But she added: “Even allowing for today’s figures, we think that we might be starting to see a reduction in the rate at which new cases are increasing.”

A restriction against gatherings in people’s homes will also continue until 2 November.

Sunak unveils new hospitality support

Details about the new government funding can be found here:

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