Stornoway business owners in the hospitality sector are supporting calls for the Scottish Government to go further to support the country’s hospitality businesses if it is to have any hope of keeping their businesses alive and their employees' jobs safe.
Speaking privately to welovestornoway.com, business owners complained of the maze of overlapping restrictions and questioned the need for restrictive measures in areas which had no community transmission of Covid-19.
One pointed out that Sweden - with population of 10.23 million - has recorded 102,407 cases of Covid-19 and 5,910 related deaths so far, despite having one of the lightest levels of mandatory restrictions in the world throughout the pandemic. By contrast, Scotland - with population of 5.4m - has recorded 44,036 cases and 4301 deaths have been registered on death certificates as related to Covid-19.
The sectors trade body, UKHospitality yesterday warned that the £40m support package for the industry which has been announced will not be enough and has called on the Scottish Government to outline how it will provide further financial support as soon as possible.
UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “Financial support for hospitality businesses, which are either closed or operating under severe restrictions, and supply chain businesses is welcome.
“The reality is, however, that the £40 million pot made available by the Scottish Government is not going to be nearly enough. It will be nowhere near enough to offset the massive hit businesses have taken. It will not keep businesses afloat and it will not keep enough jobs safe.
“Compulsory closures in the central belt and the trading restrictions elsewhere are biting hard. Consumer confidence is also low which means revenue is down and cash flow reduced. Businesses need cash in order to survive and keep as many of their employees as possible in jobs.
“The Scottish Government must go further. It needs to announce as soon as possible how it will use its share, understood to be £700m, of the £1.3bn allocated last Friday by the Chancellor to the devolved governments. It must use a significant chunk of this to help the beleaguered hospitality sector and its employees. Many hospitality businesses including nightclubs, meeting spaces andconference venues are, as yet, unable to re-open and they need the support that has hitherto been denied them.
“There must also be a change in the way these restrictions are being rolled-out. It is increasingly incumbent on government to provide adequate notice of restrictions being placed on businesses and, at the same time, provide full details of how these businesses will be supported.”
Covid-19 restrictions introduced in September did not slow consumer spending, as the recovery seen since July continued, according to Bank of Scotland’s Spending Power Report.
In September, non-essential spending grew 7% year on year, the largest increase in any single month since July 2019 and eclipsing the 3% increase in August.
Whilst further Covid-19 preventative measures are now in place for restaurants in Scotland, in September - where the ‘Rule of Six’ was in place from the 14th of the month and the 10pm curfew from the 25th - card spending increased 14% year on year. This was the biggest rise since March 2020, higher than August, which had the support of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Other high-street pillars also saw a resurgence in spending in September. Department stores,hit badly by pandemic lockdown measures, saw spending surge 33% year on year, compared to a 11% increase in August. Elsewhere, home stores continued to attract significantly more money from shoppers this year, 43% above 2019 levels, as well as electrical stores (42%).
Spending at clothing retailers grew 5% year on year in September, up from 4% growth in August.
With a limited number of travel corridors in place between Scotland and the rest of the world, spending on holidays has continued to trend well below 2019 levels. In September, people spent 62% less than this time last year, remaining unchanged from the month before.
As the government moved back to encouraging people to work from home, commuter spending was down in September by 51% year on year (from 44% in August). Fuel spend is now only 10% less than a year ago, having been as much as 60% down, in April.