THE funding of furlough has come under the spotlight after being dubbed a “mad" financial merry-go-round by Scottish hospitality industry leaders.

Some of the country’s best-known restaurateurs, hoteliers and pub groups have claimed that furlough is “moving money around to no-one’s benefit” as the weight of the coronavirus pandemic continues to press down on businesses.

While there was a glimmer of hope this week with news 11 resilient restaurateurs opened new premises in Glasgow last year, the Scottish Hospitality Group has highlighted a particularly cold calculation as it called for better channelling of funds.

It said that the painful absurdity is that on average its members are paying the UK Government £150,000 a week in National Insurance, while receiving £66,000 a week in financial support.

HeraldScotland: Stephen Montgomery, of the Scottish Hospitality Group.Stephen Montgomery, of the Scottish Hospitality Group.

Stephen Montgomery, group spokesperson, said: “It is complete madness that there’s a whole bureaucracy set up to move money around like this to no-one’s benefit."

The industry body, made up of businesses including the DRG Group, Buzzworks Holdings, Signature Pubs, Montpeliers, Manorview Group, Lisini Pub Co and the G1 Group, has a combined turnover in better times of £275 million, with 200 venues and 6,000 workers.

In finance, business leader David Brown of Hi55 has offered alternative routes of paying for furlough in the future that would ease the pull on the public purse.

Elsewhere, James Withers of Scotland Food and Drink says pleas over seafood and fishing industry losses again “fell on deaf ears” in Westminster.

In his Called to Account column this week, Business Editor Ian McConnell shines a light on the real worth of any potential future US and UK commercial arrangement. “The much-vaunted free trade deal the Conservative Government has been wanting to do with the US would, according to the Johnson administration’s forecasts, add 0.16% at most to UK gross domestic product on a 15-year horizon” he writes.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Yawning chasm between chaotic reality and Brexiters’ fantasy

If this band of Tories continues to turn its back on sector after sector, funders and grandees, the way it is doing now, it is likely to find itself in a difficult corner from which to escape.

The future of the North Sea is the focus of Business Correspondent Mark Williamson’s column this week, where he writes: “A giant has provided what sounds like a big vote of confidence in the North Sea but those concerned about the prospects for the key oil and gas industry may be unwise to get too excited about it.”

He also writes that BP this week underlined how much money it expects to generate in the North Sea in coming years despite falling deep into the red amid the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

HeraldScotland: The Scotch whisky industry was angry over the move.The Scotch whisky industry was angry over the move.

Deputy Business Editor Scott Wright uncovers the damage done to the whisky sector by US tariffs in his column, writing: “While the UK Government is busy applying to join a trading bloc on the other side of the world, its lack of progress in resolving a dispute a little closer to home is causing considerable anger in the Scotch whisky industry.”

READ MORE: American dining giant to bring new brand to Glasgow

Carolyn Currie of Women’s Enterprise Scotland admits to a sense of despair in Kristy Dorsey’s employment focus column. “It’s always the same,” she says. “The next financial crisis hits and look, oh, it’s women who are at the front of the firing line again.”

Greener whisky packaging is the focus of the Business Correspondent’s article about how Islay distillery Bruichladdich is testing a “no tin” position, adding that drinkers are being invited to go “one tin lighter”.