Scotland’s pubs and bars are struggling to survive as they face a record number of closures this year. According to the latest data, 76 pubs and bars have shut down in the first nine months of 2023, a 36% increase from the whole of last year. This means that Scotland is losing pubs and bars at twice the rate of England, where only 0.75% of outlets closed in the same period.
Rates relief denied
One of the main reasons for the crisis in the Scottish hospitality sector is the lack of business rates relief from the Scottish Government. Unlike in England, where pubs and bars received a 75% reduction in rates bills for the financial year 2024-25, the Scottish Government chose not to pass on the same support to its businesses, despite receiving extra funding from the UK Government.
This decision has put Scottish pubs and bars at a competitive disadvantage and has increased the financial pressure on them, especially after the pandemic. Many businesses are still burdened with debt and face rising costs of energy, inflation, wages, and supply chain disruptions.
The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) have joined forces to urge the Scottish Government to replicate the rates relief announced by the UK Government in the Autumn Statement, in order to save the sector from further collapse.
Job losses and community impact
The closure of pubs and bars in Scotland has not only affected the owners and staff, but also the communities they serve. Pubs and bars are often the social hubs of their neighbourhoods, providing a place for people to meet, socialise, and enjoy local culture and entertainment. They also contribute to the local economy by creating jobs, paying taxes, and supporting other businesses.
The SBPA and SLTA estimate that the Scottish hospitality sector employs over 100,000 people and generates over £1.5 billion in tax revenue. However, these figures are at risk of shrinking if more pubs and bars close down permanently. The trade associations warn that without urgent action from the Scottish Government, the sector will face more job losses and community blows.
Hope for the future
Despite the bleak outlook, some pubs and bars in Scotland are trying to adapt and survive the crisis. Some have diversified their services by offering takeaway, delivery, outdoor seating, and online events. Others have invested in improving their facilities, hygiene, and safety measures to attract and retain customers. Some have also received support from local authorities, customers, and campaigns such as the Save Our Pubs initiative.
The SBPA and SLTA hope that the Scottish Government will listen to their pleas and provide the much-needed rates relief in the upcoming Scottish Budget statement later this month. They also call for more collaboration and consultation between the government and the sector, to ensure that the policies and regulations are fair and proportionate. They believe that with the right support and guidance, the Scottish hospitality sector can recover and thrive again.