SLTA Slams Scottish Government’s New Financial Support Package As A ‘Christmas Cracker Joke’

Businesses across Scotland will benefit from a new £185 million package of targeted coronavirus (COVID-19) support.

The announcement follows discussions with business groups and sees a wide range of sectors benefiting, from taxi drivers and arts venues to travel agents and hospitality.

In addition, there will be additional one-off payments to hospitality businesses in January to help them deal with the traditional post-Christmas dip in demand. These will be of £2,000 or £3,000, depending on rateable value.

The package was announced by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, who also said she had written to the Treasury calling for Scotland to receive its share of rates relief reimbursed by supermarkets “to ensure this is spent on those areas hardest hit as part of Scotland’s recovery from COVID-19”.

However the announcement has been denounced as an insult to an industry sector which she herself acknowledged as a sector hardest hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has said.

Responding to the statement, SLTA managing director, Colin Wilkinson, said: “The announcement of additional one-off payments of either £2,000 or £3,000 – dependent on rateable value – to hospitality businesses in January to ‘help’ them deal with the traditional post-Christmas dip in demand is as bad as hearing a Christmas cracker joke.

“The industry keeps being told by Government that our concerns are being listened to but this announcement confirms the Government needs to get a serious grip on the reality of the cataclysmic devastation facing the licensed hospitality sector and those that it employs.

“The Finance Secretary’s ‘Christmas gift’ of £2,000 or £3,000, although we will have to wait until January to get it, will at least help pay some of the recent extra lockdown costs incurred by many of Scotland’s pubs and bars – so the one-off grant has gone even before we get it.

“The announcement of a £60 million fund for the tourism sector, the details of which will be developed in consultation with the industry, will we hope include those organisations at the coalface of representing the licensed hospitality sector which is a major contributor to Scotland’s overall tourism industry.

“Some sectors supported by this new package have done better than the licensed hospitality industry and this only raises the question of why there is such disproportionality between the level of support given and the size of the sector needing financial aid. We accept that all businesses need support but surely any financial support should be directed to those hardest hit and in most need.

“The Scottish Government must therefore provide realistic financial compensation if the sector and the staff that it employs are to be here after spring 2021 and be part Scotland’s economic recovery.”