More than 3,100 restaurants in Scotland signed up for UK Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme – meaning eateries were buzzing again for the first time in months.
Ruth Sutherland (below), who runs the Carfraemill Hotel in the Lammermuir Hills, says the introduction of the promotion saw demand ‘quadruple’.
The UK Government has given firms across Scotland vital support to protect jobs and help them weather the storm of the Covid-19 crisis. In March Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a package of loans, grants and tax breaks to mitigate the fallout from the pandemic, followed in July by the Plan for Jobs.
As coronavirus spread, the hospitality sector was hit especially hard, and, was soon seeing bookings cancelled.
But now Ruth’s hotel has reopened with social distancing in place, and she has been able to bring her staff back. She’s also eligible for the £1,000 Job Retention Bonus next January for every employee she brings back from furlough, and has seen the restaurant busy again thanks to the Eat Out To Help Out scheme.
“It’s probably trebled demand on those days – maybe even quadrupled,” she says. “People can’t believe when you hand the bill over that it’s so low. There’s been a very positive vibe around it which has been great.”
With 40 staff to look after, the pressure was on for Ruth during lockdown. Over Mother’s Day weekend, she sold 400 takeaway afternoon teas, but she realised that wasn’t going to be enough to sustain the hotel over the coming months.
“It was so stressful for everyone – Mum in particular,” says Ruth. “She’d spent 23 years building up the business, and to watch it close in a matter of days was terrifying. We decided to shut before the furlough scheme was announced, so the most emotional thing was telling the staff, when we didn’t even know what we were going to do about their wages.”
UK GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR SCOTLAND
- The UK Government is now supporting more than 930,000 jobs in Scotland – a third of the workforce.
- Furlough and self-employed schemes are part of an unprecedented UK Government package to help businesses and individuals across Scotland during the pandemic.
- The UK Government loaned more than £2.3billion to 65,000 Scottish businesses, deferred VAT bills and increased support to individuals through Universal Credit.
- £6.5billion of direct funding was allocated to the Scottish Government.
- VAT was cut to 5 per cent to help restart tourism businesses.
- A £2billion kick-start scheme will create thousands of high-quality jobs for young people.
So Ruth felt huge relief when the UK Government announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which allowed businesses to pay 80 per cent of wages until October. “We had something to turn to,” she says. “Being part of the local community, it’s the staff you care about.”
It’s not just the hospitality industry that’s benefited from the package of financial support from the UK Government. John O’Malley (below), who runs a chain of estate agents, was also able to look after his 15 staff thanks to the CJRS when business slowed due to the pandemic.
“It was worrying because salaries are a big part of our annual expenditure,” he says. “But I was impressed by how quickly the UK Government put their packages in place. I felt they really helped.”
Now John’s been able to bring the staff back to work. “I felt that some of them were at their wits’ end, so when we opened the offices back up, with social distancing measures in place, they were more than happy to return,” he says.
“Without that UK Government support, I would likely have been faced with a downward spiral of cutting staff and closing offices,” he adds. “I’d have had to take stock of what was going on and decide whether it was worth going forward with the bills and costs involved in running a business like this. It would have been a very hard time to come out of. The UK Government schemes really allowed us to come back.”