HOSPITALITY leaders have warned that many of Scotland’s pubs, bars and restaurants face the threat of closure, despite restrictions easing throughout Scotland.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said many businesses were still struggling, with the risk of job losses imminent despite the furlough scheme.

Responding to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement, the SLTA’s managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “While this is a step in the right direction and it is excellent news that Angus, Falkirk and Inverclyde can move from level 3 into level 2, it has not gone far enough to help an industry in crisis.

“December is a crucially important part of the year for our industry for a number of reasons, but even more so this year as operators struggle to save their businesses. The licensed hospitality sector has borne the brunt of heavily restrictive measures this year and the opportunity to be open and doing what we do best over Christmas and New Year would have perhaps given a much-needed morale boost for both operators and staff – and help businesses claw back some of the huge financial losses they have incurred in 2020. It is obvious that the licensed hospitality sector is being held up as the sacrificial lamb due to the inability to control the spread of the virus in other sectors and in private homes.”

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “We are glad to see that some of the most severe restrictions have eased in areas across Scotland, which will particularly help retailers who will hope to take advantage and trade in the key period leading up to Christmas. However, we remain concerned about the ongoing crippling impacts being felt by our hospitality and tourism businesses, who have seen their trade completely dry up and with little prospect of that recovering in the near future. We urge everyone to behave responsibly to support businesses, our families and our employees.’’