Scottish Tourism And Hospitality Bodies Express ‘Extreme Disappointment’ At Scottish Budget

The Scottish Tourism Alliance, UKHospitality Scotland, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and the Scottish Beer and Pub Association have highlighted the material threat of long-term damage to the competitiveness of Scotland’s hospitality and tourism sector, as a result of ongoing inaction.

Commenting, the groups said: “With estimated consequentials of around £230 million coming to Scotland as a result of the 75% rates relief afforded to businesses in England, the Scottish Government has squandered a golden opportunity to support one of the country’s most important sectors for the second year in a row.

“The 100% rates relief which has been announced for hospitality businesses in our island communities is welcomed, given the economic disruption these businesses have experienced as a result of years of underinvestment in our ferry infrastructure. However, this measure falls very short of what has been expected.  It is an extreme disappointment for tourism and hospitality businesses across Scotland.

“The lack of business support measures will see many thousands of tourism and hospitality businesses facing acute financial challenges in the next year, tipping many into crisis.

“It also entrenches the fact that it is now immeasurably harder to run a hospitality, leisure or tourism business in Scotland, than anywhere else in Britain. This is particularly highlighted by the decision not to support the sector with rates relief, at a time when pubs in Scotland are already closing at twice the rate of those in England.

“Around 10,000 of our businesses will not benefit from the Small Business Bonus Scheme, leaving them unsupported, and this growing gulf with the rest of Britain will cost jobs, economic growth, investment and, ultimately, tax revenues which are needed to fund public services.

“The announcement of a new income tax band will also hit our sector’s ability to recruit senior and highly experienced candidates from elsewhere in the UK and potentially retain our emerging leadership talent. Businesses already report that it is challenging to fill vacancies, with higher tax in Scotland being a barrier.

“One positive is the decision to freeze the poundage, which keeps another multi-million price rise at bay for now, but this will simply maintain the status quo of already extortionate business rates.

“The Scottish Government must now work closely with businesses, as promised in the Budget announcement, to bring forward a clear strategy for economic recovery and growth, including delivering on its commitment to reform business rates through careful examination of the methodology as a starting point.”

Scotland Director of consumer group CAMRA whose members had been lobbying MSPs asking for a 75% business rates discount to help save pubs and breweries, said:

“Pubgoers will be deeply disappointed by the lack of help for most of our locals today. Whilst 100% rates relief for hospitality businesses in island communities will be welcomed, failing to pass on extra money from the UK Government to help with business rates for the rest of our hospitality businesses is undoubtedly a blow and puts many of our pubs at risk of permanent closure.

“Yet again it seems that the Scottish Government just doesn’t understand the importance of our pubs, social clubs and breweries as a vital part of our social fabric – bringing communities together and providing a safe, regulated environment to enjoy a drink with friends and family. Our locals are community hubs that need and deserve help to make sure that they survive and thrive.

“With reports that pubs are closing at a faster rate here than elsewhere in the UK, Scottish Government ministers urgently need to re-think the decision not to give our locals the 75% discount with business rates bills that pubs south of the border are receiving. The Scottish Government also needs to support consumers, pubs and breweries in the new year by ditching any plans to bring back restrictive bans on alcohol advertising.”