MINISTERS are being urged to offer business rates support to pubs after new research revealed that Scottish boozers are closing at twice the rate of those in England this year.
Researchers found that 1.7% of all Scottish outlets shut in the first nine months of this year, compared with 0.8% in England and 1.4% in Wales.
Holyrood ministers decided not to match a 75% business rates relief available for the sector in England and Wales in the 2022-23 Scottish budget.
In last month’s autumn statement, Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, pledged to extend the scheme, which also covers retail and leisure, for a further 12 months.
Shona Robison, the Scottish deputy first minister, is now under pressure to follow suit when she unveils the Holyrood budget on December 19.
The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) issued a joint statement today seeking support.
“The failure to pass on rates relief last year was a devastating blow for Scotland’s pubs and bars,” they said.
“This 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.”