A GROUP representing businesses in the hospitality sector has said more than 85% of Scottish pubs have asked for government support to survive the coming months.

The (SLTA) Scottish Licensed Trade Association has published a survey exposing the “tide of unprecedented challenges” that the service sector is facing amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Soliciting the views of more than 600 bars, forming 10% of Scotland’s trade operators, the report revealed that 87% of respondents requested government aid to get through the winter months.

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Some of the factors putting bars at the brink included Covid debt, Brexit, rising costs, staff shortages and soaring energy bills.

One of the most concerning issues raised by the survey was that a quarter of businesses said they expect their energy bills to rise by more than 500% - with as many as 45% of businesses saying they would have to reduce opening hours over it.

And one in 10 said they planned to close over the winter months.

Meanwhile, 40% said they were having to employ significantly fewer staff, with recruitment proving more difficult after Brexit.

Colin Wilkinson, SLTA managing director, said the survey showed “the issues facing the wide range of small to large businesses”.

He added: “Many of our respondents are still carrying significant Covid debt and are dealing with the challenges of Brexit, but we are now facing even bigger hurdles with rising costs, staff shortages and enormous increases to energy costs – with one in four anticipating an increase in energy costs of over 500%, despite the Chancellor’s announcement on capping wholesale energy prices.

“Our pubs and bars have worked very hard post-Covid and Brexit to showcase Scotland’s hospitality industry, but with a tsunami of rising costs and low consumer confidence we urgently call on local and national governments to help us through the winter.

“We must protect the jobs that outlets provide directly and the associated jobs in the wholesaling, brewing/distilling and food-producing sectors.”