Scottish pub closures hit ‘record’ numbers

Pubs and bars in Scotland are closing at twice the rate as those in England, with 76 sites gone in 2023 to date.

Figures from the Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) revealed 1.7% of pubs in Scotland closed during the first nine months of 2023.

In comparison, 0.75% of pubs in England shut over the same period, while 1.4% of pubs in Wales closed.

Permanent closures in Scotland are more than one-third higher than the whole of last year.

The SBPA and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) have joined forces to call on the Scottish government to pass on funding for the hospitality sector following the UK chancellor’s autumn statement, which will see English businesses receive a 75% reduction in rates bills in 2024/25.

Pubs elsewhere in the UK benefitted from the decrease last year, but the Scottish government chose not to pass on the reduction.

In a joint statement, the two trade bodies said: “The failure to pass on rates relief last year was a devastating blow for Scotland’s pubs and bars and has resulted in a record number of permanent closures.”

The SBPA and the SLTA said many businesses are still dealing with post-pandemic debt and “increased financial pressures” such as soaring energy prices and inflation.

The UK government recently announced that the minimum wage, also known as National Living Wage, will increase to £11.44 (US$14.42) per hour for workers aged over 21 from April 2024. 

“The next financial year will also see increased costs in the form of wages, with increases to minimum wages, which will need to be paid for directly by businesses,” the trade groups warned.

“The rates relief in England will help businesses there with this increased cost, but unless the Scottish government passes on the support, pubs and bars north of the border will be left to entirely fend for themselves and the rate of closures will only increase.

“The Scottish government must ensure that the rates relief is passed on in full or it will cement further closures in the sector, directly resulting in job losses and blows for communities across the country.”

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Author: Nicola Carruthers