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Tweaks to Covid rules ‘could save 1,800 businesses’

Cockburn Street Edinburgh pubs

Pubs are fighting for survival (pic: Terry Murden)

Thousands of jobs and businesses in the hospitality industry could saved by relatively minor changes to the Covid restrictions policy, according to a new economic impact study. 

Extending opening times by two and a half hours and allowing alcohol to be served under strictly-controlled conditions would more than double the turnover of pubs and restaurants from £419 million to £1.1bn.

The study by Biggar Economics also found that it would secure the viability of 1,816 businesses and increase the number of jobs supported from the current 28,300 to 60,800.

UKHospitality Scotland (UKH Scotland), the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) are calling for the Scottish Government to implement the changes, adding that they would also turn a £261m fiscal cost of subsidy into a £63m positive tax contribution.


By contrast, returning to the previous restrictions would cost thousands of jobs, at a cost of £347m.

The economic impact study examined several scenarios, all of which maintain COVID-secure public health measures while allowing longer trading hours, with alcohol served, in Scotland’s Levels 1 to 3 restrictions regions.

Executive director of UKHospitality Scotland, Wille MacLeod said: “The restrictions, as currently in place, have a disproportionate impact on the hospitality sector and is costing the Scottish economy millions of pounds.

“A relaxation, as has been suggested by the industry would give our sector a transformative boost and help support business in the crucial recover period.”

The study, which was commissioned by Diageo on behalf of the hospitality sector, revealed the enormous economic cost the current restrictions policy is having on the hospitality sector, reducing annualised turnover from £2bn pre-COVID to just £276m under the restrictions that were in place in November, with the number of jobs supported collapsing from 83,400 to 19,100.

Graeme Blackett of BiGGAR Economics, said: “This study highlights the severe negative economic impact that COVID-19 restrictions have had on the hospitality sector, the businesses and people who work in the sector itself, and the businesses and employees in the supply chain. 

“It also demonstrates that scenarios which allow for extended trading, whilst maintaining appropriate safety restrictions, can place the hospitality sector and the wider food and drink supply chain in a much stronger position. 

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“Minor adjustments to the restrictions could get thousands of people back to work and allow the sector to generate turnover, and contribute significantly to the public finances in 2021.”

The report examines the economic impact of five scenarios, including restrictions in place before 11th December, restrictions currently in place, and three potential alternative scenarios:

  • The first alternative policy scenario looked at extending closing times from 8pm to 10.30pm and allowing alcohol to be served with food in Levels 1 to 3.  This scenario supports £927 million in turnover and 53,100 jobs; however, it represents a fiscal cost of £14 million. 
  • The second alternative policy scenario looked at also allowing wet-led pubs and bars that don’t serve food to be open until 8pm in Levels 1 to 3. This supports £1.1 billion in turnover, 60,800 jobs, and a fiscal benefit of £63 million. 
  • The third alternative policy scenario looked at allowing all hospitality businesses to be open until 10.30pm and to serve alcohol. This supports £1.2 billion in turnover, 65,400 jobs, and a fiscal benefit of £105 million. 

In 2019, prior to the global pandemic, Scotland’s hospitality industry contributed £1.8 billion Gross Value Added (GVA, a measure of economic output) to Scotland’s economy. The sector also supported 83,400 jobs and was associated with £812 million in tax revenues.  

The report highlights that restrictions on the hospitality sector, as based on the levels in place across Scotland from 11 December, supported £419 million in turnover and 28,300 jobs; however, it represents a fiscal cost of £261m. 

The Scottish Government’s previous restrictions, which ended on 11 December, supported £276m in and 19,100 jobs and represented a fiscal cost of £347 million.

Fever free checks to boost safety

An Edinburgh restaurant will be adopting new technology designed to help combat the spread of coronavirus – and could be part of the solution to easing restrictions.

McLarens on the Corner in Bruntsfield will be using Fever Free Zone technology to check the temperature of customers.

The technology, which can be used in any environment, is the first of its kind to be used in Scotland and will soon be rolled out to the Signature Group’s other venues such as Kyloe and Cold Town House.

Customers and staff receive a temperature check on entry, activating a six-hour pass. If high temperature is detected, the employer will encourage the person to go home and the app will prompt them to seek medical advice and engage with the NHS.

Anonymity is protected as data on temperature is never stored for an identifiable individual.

It has been developed by clinical epidemiologist and public health consultant, Dr Paul Nelson and has been influenced by the group’s plan to provide customers and staff with the safest possible environment.

Dr Paul Nelson comments, “Our technology supports responsible businesses to become gatekeepers protecting the economy as well as reassuring customers of a fever free space in which they can spend their time.

“The six-hour temperature checks should serve as a strong reminder that the right to enter economically vulnerable spaces and ultimately the shape of our future is tied to our individual responsibility to do what we can, not to infect others.”

Louise Maclean, business development director at Signature Group, said: “We have invested over £250,000 in covid mitigation since the outbreak of the pandemic and we are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that our customers and staff feel as safe as possible.”

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