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    Scotland’s pubs closing at twice the rate of those in England – SLTA

    Image: iStock / Credit: paddy the golfer

    Licensed hospitality calls for rates funding to be passed on

    The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) have joined forces, calling on the Scottish Government to pass on funding for their sector following the UK Chancellor’s Autumn Statement which will see English businesses receive a 75 per cent reduction in rates bills in the financial year 2024-25.

    Pubs elsewhere in the UK benefited from the reduction last year. However, the Scottish Government chose not to pass on the reduction – despite Barnett “consequentials” being given to the Holyrood administration. That has resulted in permanent closures in the sector accelerating at more than double the rate in Scotland (1.7 per cent) than in England (0.75 per cent).

    “The failure to pass on rates relief last year was a devastating blow for Scotland’s pubs and bars and has resulted in a record number of permanent closures,” said the SBPA and SLTA in a joint-statement. “Already in 2023, with a quarter still to go, permanent closures are more than one-third higher than the whole of last year and double the closure rates across the remainder of the UK.

    “Many businesses are still saddled with debt incurred during the pandemic and have been unable to recover with the increased financial pressures in the aftermath, including sky-high energy prices, inflationary pressures and impacts to supply chains.

    “The next financial year will also see increased costs in the form of wages, with increases to minimum wages, which will need to be paid for directly by businesses. The rates relief in England will help businesses there with this increased cost, but unless the Scottish Government passes on the support, pubs and bars north of the border will be left to entirely fend for themselves and the rate of closures will only increase.

    “The Scottish Government must ensure that the rates relief is passed on in full or it will cement further closures in the sector, directly resulting in job losses and blows for communities across the country.”

     2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 (Q1-3)
    Pubs in Scotland change+10 -6 -38 -56   -76

    Pub closures in Scotland are accelerating at a worrying rate according to official ratings data. In 2023 permanent closures are more than one-third higher than the whole of last year and double the closure rate in England:

    Scotland – 1.7% of total pubs closed in 2023

    England – 0.75% of total pubs closed in 2023

    Wales – 1.4% of total pubs closed in 2023

    England & Wales combined – 0.8% of total pubs closed in 2023

    In consequence of this, the SBPA and the SLTA are calling for the following measures:

    • Replicate the 75 per cent rates relief announced by the UK Government in the Autumn statement in order to ensure Scottish businesses are no longer placed at a competitive disadvantage and to facilitate investment into our sector.
    • Introduce a permanent NDR Licensed Hospitality-specific multiplier of 35p to support our pubs, encourage investment, help revitalise high streets, and rebalance the business rates burden.  This would end the sticking plaster policies that only provide temporary relief for the businesses that bring life to our communities. It would also partially alleviate Scotland’s pubs from the disadvantage they have been at in comparison to those businesses in England and Wales where they have enjoyed a 75% rates reduction since the pandemic.
    • Announce a further freeze of the business rate poundage at 2022 levels in order to provide our members with certainty that their rate bills are unlikely to increase in the coming year. Any further rises could be detrimental to a pub’s future viability. 
    • Alleviate cost of living pressures and protect spending power by avoiding the imposition of fiscal measures that add to the tax burden facing consumers.

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