Challenging year spells need for trade aid

Comment By Gillian McKenzie
By Gillian McKenzie

As years go, 2015 must surely be up there with the most challenging for the Scottish on-trade.
The lower drink drive limit, which came into force on December 5 last year, dealt a hammer blow to many licensed trade businesses; after work pint trade dried up, takings at many rural pubs have been decimated, and hotels and restaurants have seen alcohol sales at functions and events plummet as many people opt not to drink alcohol at all if they are driving the next day.
The legislation, which saw the limit lowered but the existing penalties retained, has been a game-changer for many. But it is by no means the only challenge operators have faced in the past 12 months.
Business rates remain a major burden for many; and although local councils were given the power to reduce non-domestic rates bills in October, it remains to be seen if any will. Licensed trade businesses have also faced extra costs involved in the implementation of auto-enrolment workplace pension schemes; and there are further cost increases on the horizon when the National Living Wage of £7.20 an hour comes into force next April. Something has got to give.
Scotland’s on-trade is vital – said to directly employ more than 43,000 people and contribute over £1.5bn to the economy. However, many fear jobs and investment are under threat in the current climate.
It’s crucial that greater support for Scotland’s hospitality businesses is at the top of the government’s list of new year’s resolutions.