HOSPITALITY groups across Scotland have welcomed the £100 million in support announced by the First Minister to tide their sector through an Omicron-dominated festive period - but warned it is just a “drop in the ocean” compared to the losses they face.

Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Government would urge people not to mix in groups of more than three households at once in the run-up to Christmas - guidance business has warned will cause a “surge” in cancelled bookings.

The SNP leader also announced further changes to the coronavirus restrictions to combat the spread of Omicron, including a reintroduction of the need for crowd control at retail outlets. She added that additional clarity would be provided in the near future.

Representatives from industry have said that they will support the drive to protect public health, and called on the UK Government to step up its contributions.

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The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said the Edinburgh government’s £100m pledge is “nowhere near” the kind of aid the industry requires.

“With the Scottish Government’s hands tied to provide more financial help, the SLTA calls on the Westminster Government to provide the aid required for the licensed hospitality sector to survive,” it added.

The body’s managing director, Colin Wilkinson, said: “While the restrictions that we feared have not yet been imposed, there still remains a great deal of uncertainty for our industry which was beginning to recover, albeit slowly, and looking forward to reasonably good prospects during the key festive trading period.

“We have not been ordered to close our doors yet but many have no choice when so many bookings have been cancelled. Our industry desperately needs aid to save it – and it needs it now.”

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Dr Liz Cameron (above), the chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, echoed calls for more aid.

Cameron said: “What Scotland’s businesses need now is an extension of at least the 50% Covid-19 rates relief, beyond the three months set out in the Scottish Budget and guaranteed for the next financial year, in full. With these additional restrictions now in place, extended rates relief will be critical to giving thousands of Scottish businesses a shot at survival.

“The UK Government must also step in quickly with further details of what funding provision will be made available for devolved administrations to support businesses, given the tough economic challenges.”

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Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland policy chair, said the guidance on household mixing was “bound to cause another surge in cancellations”.

He added: “Governments in Edinburgh and London must cooperate to ensure the amount of cash support available to firms matches the scale of the restrictions. The financial firepower to help firms during this stage of the crisis must be found.”

The Night Time Industries Association Scotland said the £100m was a “drop in the ocean”, claiming their industry had seen “£1bn of damage” after advice to cancel Christmas parties was issued.

Speaking for the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association trade union, its general secretary, Manuel Cortes, said it was “essential that the Westminster government acts now and reintroduces the furlough job retention scheme to save jobs and support businesses whose staff can’t work from home, before our NHS is overwhelmed”.

“We need to take action now to break the chains of transmission”, he said.

Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary, Roz Foyer, added: “We are calling for urgent action from the UK Government to bring forward support including the re-introduction of the furlough scheme.”