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Scotland on-trade facing ‘tidal wave’ of challenges, says SLTA

Published:  31 January, 2023

Scotland’s pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels face an unprecedented cocktail of challenges, according to the most recent Scottish Licenced Trade Association (SLTA) survey.

The ‘snapshot survey’, which covers all aspects of the Scottish licenced hospitality sector, identifies the key issues facing businesses. These include what it describes as “a tide of unprecedented challenges with huge increases in the cost of energy, rates and post-Brexit challenges in recruitment”.

“As we enter the second month of 2023, three out of five outlets are operating restricted hours with rising costs, staff shortages and enormous increases in energy prices – 45% of our respondents reported energy increases of over 250%,” highlighted the STLA’s MD, Colin Wilkinson.

“Our members are also concerned 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 – from sponsoring the dominos team to serving local beers in branded glasses.”

The survey found that despite Christmas/New Year 2022 marking the return to a full trading period without Covid restrictions, over half of outlets were “in decline” when compared with pre-Covid trading over the same festive period.

In addition to the massive escalation of energy and operating costs, respondents identified staffing shortages in the wake of Brexit as being a key concern, forcing some 40% to reduce opening hours, further depleting revenues.

The SLTA survey did find a small drop in the number of businesses saying they need government support to survive in 2023, standing at 76% versus 86% in September 2022.

However, the feedback from Scotland’s trade still makes for sobering reading, with Wilkinson adding: “We previously warned that it wouldn’t be economically viable for many outlets to remain open and we are now seeing this come to fruition with a knock-on impact on tourism and Scotland’s wider food and drink sector, including the supply chain.”

With the rest of the UK’s drinks trade watching closely, look out for further coverage of the potential impact of Scotland’s DRS and proposed tightening of restrictions on alcohol advertising and marketing in the February issue of Harpers.