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Scotland calls out government for pubs closing at twice the rate of England

Published:  05 December, 2023

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) have issued a joint appeal to support their sector after it emerged that English businesses will receive a 75% reduction in rates bills for the financial year 2024-25.

Pubs outside Scotland benefited from the reduction last year, offering some relief to businesses dealing with mounting overheads and costs. However, the Scottish government chose not to pass on the reduction. This resulted in permanent closures in the sector accelerating at double the rate in Scotland (1.7%) than in England (0.75%), the two associations argue – and are now calling on Holyrood to pass on funding to Scottish hospitality.

“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,” the SBPA and SLTA said in a joint statement.

“Already in 2023, 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.”

In last month’s Autumn Statement, UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced his decision to extend the 75% business rate relief and employers’ National Insurance relief for another year, plus a freeze on the small business multiplier (the raising of business rates in line with inflation).

The SBPA and SLTA are now calling on the Scottish parliament to offer the same relief to its home businesses, particularly as the next financial year will also see increased costs in the form of wages, including the increase to the minimum wage, 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 statement continued. 

Together the SBPA and SLTA have issued a joint Budget submission to the Scottish government, which includes a breakdown of pub growth over the past five years.

While ten new pubs opened in 2019, closures started to ramp up in 2020 (six closures), with the total number of closures accelerating through to 2023 (76 closures in Q 1-3, versus 56 for the total of 2022.)

In Wales, 1.4% of the country’s total pubs closed in 2023.