Hospitality businesses need financial help until at least March 2022, industry chiefs have told Scotland's political leaders.

The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) is also pushing for VAT on food and accommodation to be permanently cut to 5%.

The industry, which has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, made the pleas in a new manifesto published ahead of May's planned Holyrood election.

Ahead of that the Scottish Hospitality Group wants all candidates running for the Scottish Parliament to acknowledge the key role the sector - which employs some 285,000 people - plays in the economy.

All those seeking to be elected as an MSP on May 6 are also being urged to visit a local hospitality business - as soon as restrictions allow - to see the "extraordinary measures" firms have put in place to keep staff and customers safe amidst the pandemic.

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The manifesto makes the case for emergency help that would guarantee grant support for businesses unable to open due to government-imposed restrictions continuing until "at least March 2022" - adding that a sector specific version of the furlough scheme should also be in place till then at least.

It also demands that Bounce Back Loans and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans should be converted into grants for the hardest hit sectors, along with more direct support for the parts of the hospitality that are most in need, such as nightclubs - many of which have not been able to open since the initial lockdown in March 2020.

HeraldScotland: Stephen Montgomery said hospitality is worth £10.6 billion to the Scottish economy annually.Stephen Montgomery said hospitality is worth £10.6 billion to the Scottish economy annually.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the SHG, said they were making a number of "simple non-political requests".

He added: "If a candidate isn't prepared to support them then it suggests voters might like to ask them some serious questions about their views on this vital industry.

"Hospitality is worth £10.6 billion to the Scottish economy annually and employs 285,000 people, many of whom are young Scots under 25."

It would like to see a phased lifting of restrictions when Scotland returns to a tiers system, calling for businesses in Levels 2 and 3 to be open until "at least 10pm, whilst adhering to appropriate safety measures". These would mean in Level 3 areas - the second toughest tier of restrictions - no alcohol would be served.

Mr Montgomery said: "Our manifesto has been produced by industry professionals and outlines a clear plan for how the SHG can work with the Government to ensure our industry survives.

"It may be a tired phrase, but we continue to live in unprecedented times, and it is of paramount importance that the Scottish Government continues to liaise with the hospitality sector to ensure we receive the support we need. People's livelihoods depend on it."

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