By Ian McConnell

UP to 12,500 jobs in the Scottish licensed trade could be lost amid a plunge in revenues triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, a key survey signals.

The estimate that up to one-quarter of the 50,000 jobs in the sector in Scotland could be lost is drawn by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) from its latest survey. This large-scale survey reveals 45 per cent of business owners do not expect a return to “any sort of normal trading” until a vaccine is found.

The survey, sponsored by accountancy firm KPMG, shows 63% of pubs and bars businesses are employing fewer people now than in January, which the SLTA noted was traditionally a “quiet month”. Meanwhile, 89% of licensed premises in Scotland are reporting their revenue is down on last year. And 38% are reporting revenue declines of more than 50%.

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The survey of more than 600 outlets covers in excess of 10% of Scotland’s on-trade premises.

SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “The impact of Covid has been more severe for Scotland’s pubs and bars than virtually any other sector, and we now face the stark reality that up to 12,500 jobs could be lost as nearly 90% of premises report that their revenue is down versus last year.”

The SLTA flagged “evidence that venues in rural and tourist locations are faring slightly better than in urban areas with 77% showing a revenue decline versus 89% nationally”.

Its survey comes hard on the heels of a report published last week by the University of Edinburgh warning of tens of thousands of job losses across the broader tourism and hospitality sector.

The research, by the University of Edinburgh Business School in collaboration with London-based fintech specialist Wiserfunding, showed more than one in four tourism and hospitality businesses in Scotland could go bust.

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Using Wiserfunding’s modelling and technology, it was found that a “mild stress” scenario – equivalent to the 2008 crash with “some downward adjustments by industry experts” – resulted in 28% of firms defaulting, costing around 58,520 jobs. In a more “severe” situation, assuming a second prolonged lockdown, the level of default rose to 43%, costing around 89,870 jobs.

Mr Wilkinson said: “Our own survey reinforces a recent survey by the University of Edinburgh on behalf of the tourism industry, which shows the devastating impact on employment in pubs, bars and the wider hospitality sector.”

He noted the average pub or bar had spent £2,500 on “training and social distancing measures”, declaring “this equates to a £15m investment across the entire sector”.

The SLTA noted the sector had welcomed the support from both the UK and Scottish governments.

It added: “Notably support from banks and [the] UK Government had a higher rating than [that from] Scottish or local government.”

The SLTA found the UK Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme had been “well received” among those serving food, “with an enthusiasm to extend”. The coronavirus job retention scheme, which is due to end next month, is funded by the UK Government.

Mr Wilkinson flagged the sector’s adoption of digital technology in adapting amid the coronavirus crisis.

He said: “Many pubs and bars have adapted by making increased use of digital technology and offering restaurant-quality food and cocktails for home delivery.”

However, he added: “With many people working from home, and local restrictions, one of Scotland’s major employment sectors faces unparalleled difficulties and the current business climate is leading to a real threat of permanent business closures and job losses’’