HOSPITALITY businesses have said they will need financial help including a sector-specific version of furlough until at least March 2022 as they called on backing from prospective MSPs.

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

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.

The SHG said it wants all candidates running for the Scottish Parliament to acknowledge the key role the sector in the economy.

READ MORE: Glasgow nightclub chief calls for end to ‘huge disparity’ on support grants

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.

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". It added that a sector-specific version of the furlough scheme should also be in place until 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.

HeraldScotland: Stephen 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.'Stephen 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.'

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the SHG, said the group is making a number of "non-political" requests.

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

Mr Montgomery also 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."

He added: "People's livelihoods depend on it."