Sturgeon ‘looking to help’ hospitality hit by cancellations

Nicola Sturgeon said her 'heart breaks' for hospitality businesses who have had a 'sucker-punch' so close to Christmas.

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Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish Government is actively looking at what it can do to help businesses in the hospitality sector impacted by Christmas party cancellations.

Last week, the First Minister asked workplaces to defer any planned festive gatherings due to concerns over a rising number of Omicron cases.

It led to a surge of last-minute cancellations across the hospitality sector, with calls for financial compensation to be offered to those impacted.

Speaking to STV News, Sturgeon acknowledged the challenges faced by businesses who have planned for the festive season.

“My heart breaks for hospitality businesses, for food supply businesses, who’d stocked up for Christmas and have had this sort of sucker-punch so close to Christmas,” she said.

“So, we are looking at whether there is steps the Scottish Government can take to help with that, but we have a much bigger issue right now and it’s been raised in four nations discussions in recent days by myself, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The UK funding arrangements are not fit for purpose because we can’t borrow at our own hand, we’ve got to look to the UK Government, but they only make funding available when they take decisions.

“So, this is something that all devolved administrations are pressing so that our public health responses are not being curtailed by UK funding decisions.”

The First Minister sympathised with the position of the hospitality sector, but outlined the funding constraints faced by the Scottish Government.

She said: “We have always looked at that and we are actively right now looking to see whether there’s anything we can do, particularly to help hospitality businesses with this Christmas issue.

“Many of them will have, to be blunt about it, bought their turkeys, bought the food supply for Christmas, and yes, we are unfortunately advising people to do different things when it comes to Christmas parties.

“So I am full of sympathy for the position that has put hospitality in and anything the Scottish Government can do, we will do.

“But I can’t magic away that wider funding constraint that we operate within.”

Alistair Brown, founder and CEO of Bellfield Brewery Limited, indicated that a furlough-style support scheme would be needed in the event of further restrictions being introduced.

“Businesses like us would need some support otherwise it’s going to be a very challenging January/February,” he said.  

“You know December is all about stock piling funds to see you through the quieter times and I think another thing for us is we got a huge amount of support from the local community during the last lockdown, that got us through. So we sold a lot of beer online so I would urge people to support local.”

He continued: “My suspicion is that we’re going to have to move to further restrictions and again it’s difficult, especially large groups everyone is trying to be as careful as they can be but further restrictions mean a reduction in tap room sales which is going to be pretty difficult.

“The support we need is basically if there are further restrictions we’ll probably need some furlough type support, that’s our biggest cost is our team.

“We’ve managed to the whole team employed through the whole of the crisis to date and if there is no support then you know that’s going to be challenging into January and February.”

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