Time to give trade support

Comment By Gillian McKenzie

TWELVE months ago in this column I wrote that as years go 2015 must be among the most challenging for the Scottish on-trade.
Twelve months on and I think it’s safe to say 2016 has given its predecessor a pretty good run for its money.
Of course, there are the ongoing issues that affect the trade.
Business rates, the impact of the lower drink drive limit and cheap supermarket alcohol prices continue to take their toll on  many businesses. Add into the mix the additional costs brought by the implementation of the National Living Wage and auto-enrolment pension schemes and it’s clear to see why many in the trade are struggling.
There’s also the saga that is minimum pricing. The Scotch Whisky Association last month launched a last-ditch attempt to block the introduction of minimum unit pricing, with the appeal to the UK Supreme Court likely to further delay a measure which was first passed by MSPs back in 2012.
And then there’s the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, with the vote for Britain to leave the EU raising all sorts of potential issues for our trade – from the cost of imported food and wine, to the immigration status of the 21,000 EU nationals working in Scotland’s tourism industry, to potential changes which could impact on visitors from the EU.
Needless to say the last 12 months have also seen the powers that be continue to crow about the importance of Scotland’s tourism industry – both its direct economic contribution and the ways in which it helps support and sustain many communities.
I think it’s high time those powers that be took action to support businesses in that industry.