Restaurants and cafes in the central belt of Scotland have spent a “nightmare Friday” trying to interpret new rules just hours before a potential closure.
Scotland Food and Drink chief exective James Withers spelt out the dilemmas facing an already hard-pressed sector.
He said: “The past 24 hours has been incredibly stressful and confusing for hospitality businesses in the central belt as they attempt to untangle the new restrictions.
“The impact of these new curbs on one of Scotland’s most valuable industries is huge, being felt by food and drink suppliers as well as pubs and eateries themselves.
“Many are just clinging on to survival and some will wonder if they will ever re-open.
“Many cafes, restaurants and eateries in central Scotland have spent Friday trying to work out if they have to close for 16 days.
“It has been a nightmare for them trying to interpret new regulations, coming out just hours before a potential closure, whilst they are trying to manage their staff rotas and the ordering or cancellation of suppliers.”
And he warned that all this is taking its toll on business owners and managers. “I genuinely worry about the mental health impact of the last few days,” he said.
“The mood of the sector is as grim now as at any time since the Spring.
Hospitality and its suppliers are in the eye of the economic storm, despite having done so much to open up and operate safely.
“It feels like a huge kick in the teeth and unfortunately not all hospitality businesses will be able to weather the storm ahead.
“The next step will be to look carefully at the details of new Scottish Government and UK Government support in the hope it buys some survival time.”
He was speaking after the Scottish Government earlier delayed details of a £40m fund to support businesses prior to an announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said at the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh today that details were being held until the Chancellor announced support from the UK Government.
Sturgeon said she hoped would have a “positive impact” on the support which could be offered in Scotland.
The Chancellor announced that the Government’s Jobs Support Scheme will be extended to support businesses forced to close by any new coronavirus restrictions or lockdowns.
He said this afternoon that any firms whose premises are “legally required to shut” due to local or national restrictions will get grants worth up to two thirds of each employees’ salary (or 67%), up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.
The Government says that under the expanded JSS scheme, employers will not be required to contribute towards wages but will have to cover National Insurance and pension contributions.
The Government says: “It is estimated that around half of potential claims are likely not to incur employer NICs or auto-enrolment pension contributions and so face no employer contribution”.
Businesses will only be able to claim the support while subject to restrictions. Employees must be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days.
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that three strands would make up Scottish Government support.
The first will be support for employment, which was supposed to “top up” the current furlough scheme.
The second would provide a cash grant for businesses impacted by closures or reduction in business, similar to what was seen in Aberdeen during the local outbreak where grants of £1,000 or £1,500 depending on rateable value were made available.
The third part of the support is a discretionary fund being made available to local authorities to support businesses not already covered by funding.
The First Minister also addressed confusion over the new coronavirus restrictions placed on hospitality.
Some have questioned what constitutes a cafe, which are allowed to remain open to counter social isolation.
Cafes licensed to sell alcohol have also been allowed to open if they curtail those sales
Speaking about the “lack of clarity”, the First Minister said: “Sometimes that’s the price we have to pay right now for trying to be as flexible as possible.
“It would have been much easier and would have given much greater clarity just to stick to the position yesterday that cafes with a licence had to close, but we decided to try to strike a different balance.”