Call for Scottish hospitality businesses hit by Hogmanay shutdown to get extra support

Pubs, bars and other businesses reliant on Hogmanay as a key source of revenue should get extra government support after being forced to close through Covid restrictions, Scottish Labour has claimed, as its party leader accused the government minister responsible for hospitality of failing to fight hard enough for the industry.

Richard Leonard said Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing had been “failing miserably” in ensuring support for the hospitality sector and called for a “new deal with generous support for those that have survived the Covid crisis, and those hoping to revive their business”.

His comments came as his culture spokesperson, Dr Claire Baker, said there had been a “miscalculation” by the Scottish Government on the amount of support required by hospitality businesses to survive during the pandemic.

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Dr Baker said Nicola Sturgeon’s call for people to remain at home during the festive season, avoiding street parties and traditional first-footing, hit hospitality businesses hardest at what would usually be their busiest time.

A group of friends enjoying an evening at the pub
A group of friends enjoying an evening at the pub

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She said: “Pubs, shops, restaurants and bars have all been impacted by the pandemic. However, not all tourism businesses can simply go online and not everyone can access the internet.

"Many other smaller businesses depend on physical footfall and passing traffic to keep their businesses afloat, such as stalls, rides and visitor attractions.

“Funding has been made available for many tourism businesses, along with the £14 million fund for hotels. However, this fund has been overwhelmed with applications and shows that there has been a miscalculation over the level of support needed across Scotland.

“Without a clear Covid exit strategy in place, the Scottish Government must do more to target relief at smaller, tourist-dependent businesses and provide assurances that support will be made available to them.”

Writing in The Scotsman today, Mr Leonard also highlighted the impact of Covid on Scotland's hospitality industry, writing: “Just as other critical sectors like tourism and the rural economy need additional financial help and a comprehensive plan to revive their Covid ravaged industries, so too will hospitality.

“The government minister responsible for hospitality during this crisis also has responsibility for rural affairs, connectivity, agriculture, forestry, fishing, tourism and animal welfare. Maybe his brief is too wide, but if he has been making the case for hospitality around the Cabinet table, he has been failing miserably.

“As we enter 2021, we must offer a ‘new deal’ for this sector in Scotland, with generous support for those that have survived the Covid crisis and those hoping to revive their business."

Mr Ewing admitted the year had been “particularly bruising” for tourism and hospitality, with the crisis “shattering previously successful businesses”.

He said the government was “committed to doing everything possible to get them back on their feet" and pointed to a £104.3m support package and the Events Industry Advisory Group, which was working to support the future of the events sector.

Mr Ewing said: "Clearly, in light of the enhanced restrictions to control the spread of the virus, we will be undertaking further work on what additional support is needed by businesses, including for the longer term. There is a need to move quickly to ensure that we respond to the threat of the virus and that the sector is adequately supported and ready to go again, when the time is right.”

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