CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak has asked the public to “eat out to help out”, launching a discount meal scheme in August to get people back into the UK’s hard-pressed restaurants, pubs and cafes.

The plan was criticised by some, with the SNP’s Alison Thewliss pointing out that with UK child poverty projected to increase to 5.2 million by 2022, there were plenty of people who were “barely eating at all” never mind eating out.

The scheme was broadly welcomed by the sector, though the Scottish Tourism Alliance urged the Chancellor to bring it forward to coincide with the Scottish school holidays.

Currently, it’s due to run in August, with food businesses encouraged to offer customers a 50% discount on their meal from Monday to Wednesday.

Scotland’s schools are due to go back on around August 12 and it could be tricky for Scots families to have a meal out on a school night.

Most English schools are on holiday until September.

The Scottish Tourism Association said: “We must remember that while August marks the start of the school holidays south of the Border, Scots are already planning staycations and days out throughout July so we will be pushing for the Eat Out to Help Out initiative to be brought forward in alignment with the re-open date of Scotland’s tourism industry on July 15.”

Firms taking part will need to register with the UK Government and claim back the cost of the discount – which will be no more than £10 a head – from the Government.

Sunak said he wanted to see pubs, restaurants, cafes and B&Bs “bustling again”.

“I know people are cautious about going out, but we would not have lifted the restrictions if we did not think we could do so safely,” he told MPs. Sunak also announced plans to cut VAT for hospitality and tourism: “Eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafes and pubs; accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites; attractions like cinemas, theme parks and zoos – all these and more will see VAT reduced, from next Wednesday until January 12, from 20% to 5%.

“This is a £4 billion catalyst for the hospitality and tourism sectors, benefiting over 150,000 businesses and consumers everywhere”.