Trade associations sound economic alarm
SCOTTISH hospitality and retail groups have called on the Scottish Government to ensure takeaway and click and collect services are allowed to continue, as the First Minister considers further Covid-19 restrictions.
Ten organisations have written to rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing MSP following comments from the Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday (7 January) suggesting these services could be compelled to close under new restrictions.
Signatories to the letter included retail groups SGF, NFRN and the Scottish Retail Consortium.
Food and drink trade associations have warned that the Scottish Government appears to be “returning to a less considered approach,” which is “less likely to provide the benefits of consultation and rounded decision making” found earlier in the pandemic.
The groups added that takeaway and click and collect services have allowed struggling firms to “keep colleagues employed”, but further restrictions “will force some businesses to close.”
The First Minister is scheduled to consider new measured with Cabinet this morning (12 January).
Full text of letter to Fergus Ewing MSP.
Dear Mr Ewing,
Potential Restrictions on Food and Drink Takeaway
Last Thursday the First Minister stated she wanted takeaway businesses to switch to delivery where possible, and we understand from subsequent media reports Ministers are considering prohibiting food takeaway activity from taking place.
Food and drink, hospitality, and catering businesses are concerned at the move away from the transparency and certainty which the Government was able to provide in the final months of last year through the Strategic Framework. It is worrying we appear to be returning to a less considered approach – one which doesn’t effectively engage affected businesses in advance – which is less likely to provide the benefits of consultation and rounded decision making provided by the earlier approach.
It goes without saying food and drink businesses are facing an incredibly difficult time. The desired outcome of the current restrictions, with people broadly staying at home, means footfall for businesses has collapsed. The inability to offer sit-in facilities should hopefully help prevent the spread of Covid – but it comes at a very high economic price. In the context of a very uncertain economic outlook, these are very challenging trading conditions.
One of the few chinks of light in this dim outlook has been the ability for food and drink businesses to provide takeaway and click/telephone and collect services to customers. These services allow local businesses and suppliers to keep colleagues employed, provides a service to people – many of whom now are essential workers doing vital tasks – and of course are easy for smaller businesses to operate and establish. Limiting trade to home delivery only will force some businesses to close – and also ensure customers are more likely to purchase food and drink from grocers – ensuring more people are congregating in a smaller number of places.
Beyond this we are concerned at how any measures would be implemented into legislation. From our point of view how you would distinguish between a sandwich or sausage roll or hot or cold drink sold from a pub, bakery, café, restaurant, carry-out, newsagent, petrol station, or grocery store seems impossible to ascertain, but all are providing fundamentally the same service. The same applies across hundreds of product categories and thousands of businesses.
With these points in mind we remain very concerned at the suggestion this commercial activity could be suspended – especially as there is no indication when these businesses will be able to return to normal trading. Our members undertaking these services have complied with every change to government guidance and put in place many mitigation measures and invested significantly to keep shoppers and workers as safe as possible. They are providing an important service in difficult circumstances, helping to support key workers as well as the Scottish food and drink industry.
Of course, we all support every effort to tackle Covid. If there is clear and unequivocal evidence measures in this area will proportionately suppress the virus we would recognise that. However, we haven’t been sighted on any data or public health evidence as to why takeaway services are a risk. As such, forced closure seems somewhat arbitrary and marginal in terms of contributing to the suppression of the virus – not least as the new ‘stay at home’ order has just come into effect and is substantially reducing footfall.
Finally, it is only a week since the First Minister announced the new stay at home restrictions, which explicitly allowed takeaway businesses to trade. It’s very difficult for businesses to plan in any sense when government announcements emerge without warning, providing a metaphorical damoclean sword above any business trading right now.
These are very difficult circumstances for government. We want to work with you and your officials to continue to develop and deliver the proportionate measures which will suppress Covid and keep everyone safe. We hope you will look to engage constructively with us over the next few months.
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Head of Policy; Scottish Retail Consortium
Alasdair Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Bakers
Colin Wilkinson, Managing Director; Scottish Licensed Trade Association
Jim Winship, Director; The British Sandwich & Food to Go Association
Jim Winship, Director; The Pizza Pasta & Italian Food Association
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive; Scottish Tourism Alliance
Paul Togneri, Senior Policy Manager; Scottish Beer & Pub Association
Pete Cheema OBE, Chief Executive; Scottish Grocers’ Federation
Stuart Reddish, National President; NFRN
Willie Macleod, Executive Director, Scotland; UK Hospitality