SOME of the biggest names in Scotland’s hospitality, food and drink sector have written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asking for specific support to prevent the collapse of businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They are warning of closures and mass unemployment unless more help is forthcoming for an industry which they say directly employs more than 220,000 people. They also say Ministers have made clear its nature means it will be one of the last areas to unlock.

In a letter to Sturgeon, top chefs and restaurateurs, including Michelin-starred Tom Kitchin and Martin Wishart, predict Scotland could lose its international reputation for food and drink if their concerns are ignored. They say: “Social distancing simply does not work in most restaurants, bars and hotels. If furlough ends and restaurants, bars and hotels are allowed to re-open but with social distancing enforced and no income from major events and festivals, the result will be a tidal wave of business closures and mass redundancies, increasing Scottish unemployment and the strain on the welfare system.”

The group, which includes Scotland’s only two-star Michelin restaurant, chef Nick Nairn and the famed Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye, want action on a series of key measures. They are calling for a specific extension to furlough for hospitality staff beyond October. They want more Scottish Government support against landlords who are still demanding full rent. They are also asking for an extension of the business rates holiday into next year.

Scotland needs an independent hospitality development fund, the letter says, to help businesses here adjust to new trading and target and build domestic tourism. With consumers nervous about venturing out again, they say a Covid Code is required to reassure the public steps have been taken to keep them safe.

With these measures, the group believes the sector can recover and prosper again. The letter says: “We are desperate to be back in business, employing people, supporting our world-class producers and suppliers, paying taxes and enhancing Scotland’s worldwide reputation for food, drink and hospitality but we can only do this with your support.”