The (SLTA) Scottish Licensed Trade Association has welcomed the announcement by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, in his Spring Budget, that there is to be a freeze on alcohol duty on draught beer and cider in pubs from the beginning of August.
But SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “I think the reaction of the licensed trade in Scotland is one of disappointment at what wasn’t mentioned in today’s Budget.”
Endorsing the tax relief of up to 11p for draught beer and cider, Mr Wilkinson said: “This is good news and a good start to helping the struggling hospitality sector get back on its feet.
“Our pubs and bars have suffered enough since the onset of the Covid pandemic so this new policy from the UK Government – the ‘Brexit Pub Guarantee’ – certainly gives many businesses some hope for their future.
“The UK Government should now go further and consider further duty differentials on other alcohol products sold in our pubs and bars if it really wants to save our industry – something we have been advocating for at least the last two years.
“However, we are concerned about the impending changes to the system for duty rates for alcohol which is due to change from 1 August – when today’s change will also kick in. For alcohol content (ABV) under 8.5% duty will be reduced but for wine and whisky it will increase substantially.”
He added: “It’s a relief, too, that the Energy Price Guarantee will remain at £2,500 for the typical household for the next three months – but what about businesses? The Chancellor didn’t make any mention of support for struggling businesses.
“Ongoing support for non-domestic energy customers is absolutely vital as is an investigation by Ofgem to thoroughly look into the actions of suppliers who have locked businesses into deals that they can’t get out of.
“Action must be taken to force energy suppliers to renegotiate these inflated contracts that are crippling many hospitality businesses.”
Alluding to previous calls for a reduction in the rate of VAT to help hospitality businesses remain competitive, he said: “The Chancellor, if he were to reduce VAT for hospitality, would be sending out a clear and unequivocal message that he recognises the importance of the sector to the economy.
“We need to see a host of urgent measures to help businesses, including a reduction in the rate of VAT and lower business rates.”
Also welcoming measures announced today to encourage people – including the over-50s – back into work and helping to alleviate workforce shortages, Mr Wilkinson added: “This is all positive but it doesn’t help us now when some businesses are unable to open every day due to staff shortages.
“It really is a case that every penny is a prisoner and the ongoing significant impacts of a tide of unprecedented challenges, with huge increases in the cost of energy, rates and post-Brexit challenges in recruitment, are not going away.
“Add to the mix the highly-publicised concern across the hospitality sector about the impact of Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) and the proposed restrictions on alcohol advertising sponsorship which will impact on many everyday aspects of pub life and we continue to be in the midst of a perfect storm.”