The Campaign for Pubs has slammed the Scottish Government for failing to provide vital support for pubs and publicans in the Scottish Budget announced yesterday, 19th December. Publicans had been calling for a Christmas present of business rates relief for Scotland’s pubs to match help for English pubs, but there was no such announcement meaning that pubs in England get 75% rates relief for another year from April, whilst Scottish pubs get no rates relief at all, despite rates having gone up for many pubs this year, despite the cost-of-living crisis.
The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Autumn statement that the UK Government is continuing the 75% business rates relief for hospitality, yet despite Scotland’s pubs facing the same challenges as English pubs, the Scottish Government refused to deliver this vital support and also offered no new support at all for the vast majority of Scotland’s pubs.
Campaign for Pubs Spokesperson for Scotland, Morag Douglas, licensee of the Star, Burntisland, has written today to Shona Robison MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance to express the dismay of publicans across Scotland and urging Ms Robison to visit her pub, to understand the reality of how tough business is at the moment for many pubs, faced with sky-high energy bills, rising bills and customers themselves feeling the pinch.
The stark reality of business for many pubs is that the cost-of-living crisis means that in the new year many pubs and publicans will struggle and without more support, some will be unable to get through until Spring because of the cost-of-living crisis with energy bills and prices hugely higher than they were just a few years ago.
The letter highlights how tough the situation is for many pubs and also stresses the vitally important role pubs, bars and inns play in our communities in combating social isolation, supporting charities and local events and causes as being a vital part of local economies.
The only new support announced was for hospitality businesses located on islands, who will receive 100% rate relief, offering no new support to every pub and inn on the mainland.
The only support for Scottish pubs is currently through the Small Business Bonus Scheme, however the thresholds for qualification were lowered this year and although many small hospitality businesses saw a reduction in rateable value, they found themselves paying MORE than they had previously. Therefore instead of offering assistance, the Scottish Government has this year actually increased business rates for many at a time where increased costs and reduced footfall due to lower disposable incomes are providing challenges for the majority of the sector. This is grossly unfair but also at risk of putting pubs out of business. This is also why rates relief, on a par with England, was essential, yet this has been ignored by Scottish Ministers.
The one crumb of comfort from the deeply disappointing Budget announcement was the commitment to looking at reforming the whole business rates system for pubs and hospitality. At the moment, business rates are based on turnover which is not an accurate or fair way of determining rateable value and this in itself needs reform. The system for determining rateable value is unfairly biased against hospitality and this needs urgent reform, not something in several years. The Campaign for Pubs has urged the Government to commence a full review as early as possible in 2024 so that reform can happen as soon as possible.
Morag Douglas, Scottish Spokesperson for the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of the Star, Burntisland said:
“Publicans up and down Scotland were deeply disappointed by the Scottish Budget which has failed to provide any extra support for the vast majority of pubs in Scotland. It is clear that the Scottish Government either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about pubs, the valuable role they play in communities and the key part they play in Scottish culture and tourism.
“The reality is that many pubs have actually had their business rates increased this year, which is grossly unfair in the middle of the worst cost-of-living crisis in recent history. With sky high energy bills and rising prices, we needed some basic support, yet instead we continue to pay far more in rates than other similar sized businesses and far more than is fair or reasonable.
“I urge Shona Robison to come to the Star, meet with me and other publicans and find out just how tough things are at the moment and how unfair the current business rates system is for pubs. It’s clear that the Scottish Cabinet has no idea of the role that pubs play in Scotland’s communities, and I hope she will be prepared to meet and think again”.