Scottish Government Budget: Scotland’s pubs and bars ‘closing at twice the rate of those in England’ amid business rates plea
Scotland's pubs and bars are closing at twice the rate of those in England, it has been warned.
The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) are now calling on the Scottish Government to do more to support the sector. The organisations highlighted that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement has meant eligible English businesses receive a 75 per cent reduction in rates bills.
Pubs elsewhere in the UK benefited from the reduction last year. However, the Scottish Government chose not to pass it on.
The SBPA and SLTA said this resulted in permanent closures in the sector accelerating at double the rate in Scotland (1.7 per cent) than in England (0.75 per cent).
In a joint statement, the bodies said: “The failure to pass on rates relief last year was a devastating blow for Scotland’s pubs and bars and has resulted in a record number of permanent closures. Already in 2023, with a quarter still to go, permanent closures are more than one-third higher than the whole of last year and double the closure rates across the remainder of the UK.
“Many businesses are still saddled with debt incurred during the pandemic and have been unable to recover with the increased financial pressures in the aftermath, including sky-high energy prices, inflationary pressures and impacts to supply chains.
“The next financial year will also see increased costs in the form of wages, with increases to minimum wages, which will need to be paid for directly by businesses. The rates relief in England will help businesses there with this increased cost, but unless the Scottish Government passes on the support, pubs and bars north of the border will be left to entirely fend for themselves and the rate of closures will only increase.
“The Scottish Government must ensure that the rates relief is passed on in full or it will cement further closures in the sector, directly resulting in job losses and blows for communities across the country.”
The SBPA and SLTA said a total of 170 Scottish pubs had closed their doors for good since 2020. They said the sector was “a key foundational element of local economies and communities throughout Scotland”.
“Scotland’s beer and pub industry’s gross value added to the economy is £1.6 billion annually, and our sector employs 88,700 people – numbers which underpin our strategic importance to not just the Scottish economy, but communities right across the country,” the organisations said.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are acutely aware of the enormous pressures facing businesses across the country, and are taking decisive steps to offer support.
"The Scottish Budget 2023/24 ensured the lowest poundage in the UK for the fifth year in a row and supports a package of reliefs worth an estimated £749 million, including the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which is estimated to take over 100,000 properties out of rates altogether.
"We further estimate around half of the properties in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors to be eligible for 100 per cent SBBS relief in 2023/24. Decisions on non-domestic rates for 2024/25 will be made as part of this month’s Budget.”
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