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Crisis relief call as Covid restrictions threaten jobs on High Street

© PAShoppers in Edinburgh last week
Shoppers in Edinburgh last week

The retail and hospitality industries fear a wave of job losses across Scotland in the wake of the latest Covid restrictions unless emergency relief is put in place urgently.

Fresh curbs were announced last week for large events and hospitality but high street businesses were already reporting trade had been slow under existing measures.

Bars and restaurants warn the effects of the restrictions are already “devastating” and say they have been inundated with cancellations. Nightclubs in Scotland are to close for at least three weeks from tomorrow.

Tony Doonan, deputy regional secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers in Scotland, said the spectre of further job losses was a major concern.

“We fear job losses will worsen as distancing measures mean queues and customers moving to buying online,” he said. “Less income means less money to pay staff.”

The fears were echoed by the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland. Spokesman Colin Borland said: “The busiest week of the trading year has effectively been reduced massively and pubs, restaurants and clubs can’t keep paying staff if they do not have income to cover that cost.

“Redundancies are a serious worry because many in hospitality are just holding on and no more. It would be extremely sad if they fell at one of the final fences in this struggle.”

Gavin Stevenson of the Mor Rioghain Group of pubs, eateries and nightclubs in Aberdeen and Inverness said the financial loss to the hospitality sector in Scotland caused by the pandemic had already topped £1 billion.

He added: “Many business owners are now at least £100,000 in debt and have remortgaged their homes to stay afloat.”

A £375 million fund was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week to help businesses hit by the latest restrictions. The Scottish Government has pledged £100m to help firms in hospitality and food supply chains which have been hit by advice to cancel work Christmas parties.

The Night Time Industries Association, however, has described the level of support as “completely inadequate”. It said it is moving at “lightning speed to save livelihoods, jobs and protect employees’ income” but fears the sector simply will not have time to adjust.