Call for new 'pub relief' scheme to save businesses

The Chancellor is being urged to reform alcohol duty and ‘help save pubs’ all over Britain.
Kenny MacAskill called for "pub relief" to help struggling venuesKenny MacAskill called for "pub relief" to help struggling venues
Kenny MacAskill called for "pub relief" to help struggling venues

SNP MP Kenny MacAskill is set to write to Rishi Sunak urging him to consider “pub relief”, which would allow pubs to claim back some of the excise duty handed out on alcohol.

His call to action comes following a Social Market Foundation report which called for the UK Government to focus taxation on cheaper, stronger products.This would see drinks more likely to be bought in supermarkets by problem drinkers targeted, and ease the financial burden on the UK’s struggling pubs and hotels.

He explained: “It seems to me to be a no brainer.

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“You extend it to the hospitality sector and indeed hotels and this would give them relief they need and they could reclaim it.

“It could be set at a rate that would be relatively revenue neutral or as the Social Market Foundation suggest, let’s just increase Excise Duty across the board which with supermarkets making record profits there is no reason they could not soak it up.”

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The East Lothian MP revealed doing so could make drinks slightly more expensive in supermarkets, but at the same time save communities from going under.

He explained: “It is hardly unlikely to put anyone off buying a Tennent's lager or a bottle of wine.

“The level of increase wouldn’t be massive, it would be hardly noticeable, you’re talking about pence and pounds at the time the industry is going to the walls.

“If you lose a pub it’s not as bad as losing a school but it's still losing an asset.

“Taking a relatively low cost across the board can save a community asset.“You can’t guarantee it would save all pubs but it would be enough to keep some ventures alive that would otherwise close up again.

“We have enough problems with shops in towns and villages that we cannot convert to save.

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“If we lose pubs and hotels we lose the rotary meet, where the football club use for visiting teams, they are not just a place for drinking alcohol, they are community sectors.”

Now writing to the Chancellor, Mr MacAskill’s suggestion comes as a recent survey by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, showed that 45 per cent of business owners do not expect a return to any sort of normal trading until a vaccine is found.

The survey also revealed that up to 12,500 jobs in the sector could be lost with nearly 90 per cent of premises reporting that their revenue is down versus last year, many by more than half.

This combined with an average spend of £2,500 on training and social distancing measures means pubs need more support than ever.

Mr MacAskill is now calling for the plan to be UK-wide.He said: “It’s a genius idea, a modest increase in supermarkets would result in a significant saving in pubs.

“It’s the sort of thing where what people worry about is the impact on the treasury, this can be relatively neutral.

“The cost increase would be minimal for the individual, but the community saving would be massive.”

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