Governments must consider bigger picture

Comment by Gillian McKenzie

Gillian B&WSTAFF across Scotland’s licensed trade work extremely hard.

Beyond their prescribed tasks behind the bar, on the restaurant floor or at reception, many are the ‘face’ of Scottish hospitality to visitors, act as unofficial tour guides, lend a sympathetic ear to customers – the list goes on. The point is, staff across the industry are vital cogs in this country’s tourism machine, which the government is so quick to praise.

It goes without saying that those paid the minimum wage would welcome more money; and that operators want to pay hard-working staff as much as they can.

The minimum wage (currently £6.50 an hour for those aged 21 and over) remains a hot topic. The SNP wants the rate upped to £8.70 an hour by 2020 and, ultimately, wants the matter devolved. The Scottish Government, meanwhile, is encouraging more employers to pay staff the living wage, currently £7.85 an hour.

The problem is, some operators say they simply couldn’t afford it, particularly given the impact the lower drink drive limit has had on trade, without some form of mitigation – whether that’s a cut in VAT, business rates or another tax break.

The living wage could bring employers many benefits resulting in better customer service and higher standards – vital to any licensed trade business.

These benefits will, however, not be realised if employers do not have the means to pay for it.

Both governments must look at the bigger picture and the wider impact decisions could have before any more are made.