By Bill Heaney
Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton Constituency, has asked the Scottish Government to hold an urgent review of the financial support available for hospitality and tourism businesses.
And for the government to increase the number and value of COVID-19 grants that are available for these sectors.
This call for action was made during a debate led by Scottish Labour within the Scottish Parliament on the need for greater support for the hospitality and tourism industries.
Jackie Baillie spoke of the number of hospitality and tourism businesses in the constituency – in particular local hotels and B&Bs – that have found the last eight months hugely difficult and have not been successful in their applications for financial support.
Due to travel restrictions and coronavirus regulations, hotels are seeing a significant drop in the number of bookings being made and many are not finding it financially viable to open at all.
Baillie also spoke on behalf of restaurant owners who wanted to understand the evidence over the restrictions to alcohol sales.
This inability to sell alcohol at all in tier three areas, and only with a meal until 8pm in tier two, has seen businesses lose significant proportions of their revenue.
With a further £1 billion worth of business support funds being transferred to the Scottish government from the UK government, Jackie Baillie wants Scottish Ministers to ensure that funds are passed on to those businesses most in need as quickly as possible.
The local MSP said: “Our local economy relies heavily on trade from the hospitality and tourism sector. Businesses in this sector – especially hotels and B&Bs – are going to suffer the devastating economic effects of COVID-19 long after other sectors and businesses begin to recover.
“I am aware of a number of local businesses who have found themselves ineligible for support. The government must urgently restructure its eligibility criteria to ensure that no business is left behind and that includes supply chain companies that provide goods and services to our hotels and restaurants.
“The government has the power and finances to increase the support that these businesses need. It must ensure sector-specific support is given as soon as possible to give these businesses the best chance of surviving.”
Meanwhile, on the local transport front, Jackie Baillie, asked Scotrail to increase the number of carriages on its rush hour services to allow for the proper social distancing of passengers.
This follows a constituent contacting Jackie Baillie to say that they were unable to keep even one meter apart from other passengers on a weekday morning service on the Helensburgh to Glasgow line.
Scotrail has cited a reduction in its passenger numbers as a reason for reducing the number of carriages, but this has resulted in passengers having to sit closer together than is currently safe to do so.
Ms Baillie MSP said: “I understand that Scotrail will be experiencing a drop in passenger numbers at the moment but with the need for social distancing to be followed, a drop in numbers cannot equate to a reduction in carriages.
“It is unacceptable that passengers are forced to put their health, and the health of others, at risk when travelling on Scotrail trains.
“I have urged Scotrail to rethink the number of carriages that they provide, at least for the busier rush hour services which a significant number of people still rely on.”