Bar and pub owners calling for Scottish Government support to keep their doors open

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Bar and pub owners have been calling on more support from the Scottish Government to help them keep their doors open.

It comes as Scotland's pubs and bars are closing in "record numbers", according to the Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).

Scotland saw 76 pub closures last year, compared to 56 in 2022.

This has resulted in permanent closures in the sector accelerating at double the rate in Scotland, at 1.7%, than 0.75% in England.

The SLTA have said that 1 in 10 bars could be shut across the country by the end of this year. Credit: ITV

James Milligan has two bars in Dumfries. He said: "Trying to keep our pubs and restaurants open, we've got rising costs throughout the industry, from electricity, salaries, utilities, rent, rates, VAT, tax and you know there is no support.

"We play a huge part to the local economy, local communities and jobs."

Steven Ceates is a bar manager and said: "I've been here for 31 years, and the last four weeks have been the most challenging and the worst new year that I have known."

Despite the obstacles, Mr Ceates said that he is committed to staying in the hospitality industry.

He added: "We'll get through with it together, we're stronger together, for my livelihood, for everyone's livelihoods, we need pubs."

Industry bodies are calling on the Scottish Government to pass on funding for their sector following chancellor Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement which will see English businesses receive a 75% reduction in rates bills in the financial year 2024-25.

Pubs elsewhere in the UK benefitted from the reduction last year, however the Scottish Government chose not to pass on the reduction.

In a joint statement, the SBPA and SLTA said the failure to pass on rates relief last year was a "devastating blow for Scotland's pubs and bars" and added permanent closures are more than one-third higher than last year and double the closure rates across the UK.

The statement went on to say that many pubs are "still saddled with debt incurred during the pandemic" and are unable to recover with the additional burden of high energy prices and impacts to the supply chain.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said it is "acutely aware of the enormous pressures facing businesses across the country, and is taking decisive steps to offer support despite limited powers and working within a challenging budget."

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