Scots hoteliers warn of ‘tidal wave’ of closures

Gordon Campbell Gray of The Wee Hotel Company

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Some of the biggest names in Scottish hospitality, food and drink have written to the First Minister calling for specific support to prevent the collapse of businesses.

The open letter has outlined a range of suggested interventions around furlough, VAT, business rates and rent, and calls on Nicola Sturgeon to take up their case with the UK Government.

Signatories include Gordon Campbell Gray, of The Wee Hotel Company, which runs The Pierhouse Hotel & Seafood Restaurant at Port Appin, and The Three Chimneys on Skye.

They fear that the sector would be among  one of the last to unlock because of concerns about spreading COVID-19.

‘Social distancing simply does not work in most restaurants, bars and hotels,’ they wrote.

‘If furlough ends and restaurants, bars and hotels are allowed to reopen but with social distancing enforced and no income from major events and festivals, the result will be a tidal wave of business closures and mass redundancies, increasing Scottish unemployment and the strain on the welfare system.’

Close to a quarter-of-a-million jobs in Scotland depend directly on hospitality but hotels, bars and restaurants have been in lockdown since the end of March.

The letter added: ‘We are all hard-working business professionals, not used to seeking subsidy and support, contributing significantly to HMRC but this is an emergency situation like no other.

‘Against this background, we are asking for you to use the power and influence you have to rescue our sector.’

The letter added: ‘We must thank you for what you have done so far. You have prioritised the public health of Scotland and we recognise nothing is more important than that.

‘We are desperate to be back in business, employing people, supporting our world class producers and suppliers, paying taxes and enhancing Scotland’s worldwide reputation for food, drink and hospitality but we can only do this with your support,’ the letter said.

Other signatories include Tom Lewis, owner of Mhor Collection; Tom Kitchin of The Kitchin Group, Edinburgh; and Nick Nairn, of Nick Nairn Cookschool and The Kailyard at Dunblane Hydro.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said in a statement: ‘Scotland’s hospitality industry is vitally important, economically and socially, to everyone who lives here and who visits Scotland and we are carefully considering how we plan the restart and long-term recovery of the sector and wider economy.

‘The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group, chaired by VisitScotland, has been in place since the beginning of the crisis and has developed a plan to respond to the impact of the virus on the sector and that work will help inform how we move forward as we slowly and carefully emerge from this crisis.

‘Our package of support includes 1.6 per cent rates relief for all non-domestic properties in 2020-21 and 100 per cent relief for properties in retail, hospitality, leisure and airports.

‘We will look carefully at all of the suggestions put forward and press the UK Government to ensure that the correct support is available as we come out of the lockdown.’