HOSPITALITY staff are being abused by customers who refuse to accept Government guidance on eating and drinking out, industry leaders have said.

The extent of the abuse was laid bare as MSPs on a Holyrood committee heard first-hand the challenges facing Scotland’s hospitality industry as it struggles through coronavirus.

The Scottish Hospitality Group, which represents businesses including The DRG Group, Signature Pubs and G1 Group, said staff from its member operators were receiving abuse from customers while trying to implement Scottish Government rules because of “widespread confusion” around what is allowed and uncertainty about further changes.

Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee on Tuesday, SHG spokesperson Stephen Montgomery also outlined the financial situation facing many of the country’s pubs and restaurants and called on the Scottish Government to make small but vital changes, or “tweaks”, to the regulations covering hospitality trading under various tiers of restrictions.

READ MORE: Restaurants and pubs owner: 'Majority of hospitality firms will not make it past Christmas' 

The evidence session is part of the committee’s ongoing inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on businesses, workers and the economy in Scotland.

SHG made clear to MSPs that venues across the country need to be able to trade viability if the Scottish Government is not going to mandate their closure and provide proper financial support to safeguard their future.

Mr Montgomery said: “Our industry has been hit very badly, partly because we’ve been subject to far more restrictions than other parts of the UK in recent months. Yet, hard-working and anxious staff are having to put up with abuse from members of the public because of the confusion and disappointment caused by the measures in place.

“Once again we ask the Scottish Government to provide greater clarity and to open the door for meaningful dialogue with the sector about our operations and the support we need.

“We’ve made multiple proposals to Government on adjustments to how restriction levels operate that would allow the sector to trade viably in a safe manner consistent with public health guidance.”

READ MORE: Scotland’s ‘forgotten firms’ need urgent coronavirus grant money

SHG is campaigning for MSP support for the hospitality sector. The group will also be giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee later this month.

A new petition started less than two weeks ago calling for the Scottish Government to “tweak the tiers” is approaching its 20,000 target. It is part of a broader campaign across social and media to address minor changes in restrictions that could avoid business closures and redundancies.

The introduction to the petition says that: “The Scottish hospitality sector is on the brink of ruin. Without a change in the government’s approach or adequate financial support, local communities will lose vital facilities and thousands of people will lose their jobs - including many young people.”

Willie Macleod, of UKHospitality, said that despite concerns being raised throughout the pandemic when premises have been open there continue to be flashpoints that can be frightening for workers.

He said: “It has not stopped. The rules are complicated and they have kept changing.

“I believe that most hospitality employers have done a great job in briefing their staff and trying to inform their customers but sadly the restrictions are such that there has to be a very firm cut-off.

“There are customers who just refuse to accept this, even at level three.

“It is quite disgraceful that people who are trying to do their jobs are being subjected to abuse by customers that won’t accept that it is the Government that is setting the rules and not the establishment.”