SCOTLAND'S pubs and bars are facing closure, job losses and the end of the sector as it currently exists, industry figures have warned.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said two-thirds of hospitality firms could be mothballed or shut in the coming months. 

Businesses feel like they are being "offered up as a sacrificial lamb without sufficient evidence", it is claimed.

It came as Nicola Sturgeon said pubs and restaurants in central Scotland will remain closed for a further week.

The First Minister said the current hospitality restrictions will be extended until November 2 ahead of the introduction a new five-tier lockdown system in Scotland.

She said: "I know all of this is really unwelcome, and I know that these restrictions are harsh. 

"They're harsh financially for many individuals and businesses and they are harsh emotionally for all of us."

She added: "But I also want to stress that we do believe these restrictions will make a difference and indeed we believe they may already be making a difference."

Paul Waterson, spokesman for the SLTA, said it was "not surpised" by the move. 

He added: "However, yet again there has been no consultation with the industry and as we said earlier this month, we believe these measures to be cataclysmic for hospitality operators.

“Hundreds of businesses are facing permanent closure and with that thousands of jobs will be lost – the damage could be irreparable.”

In September, an SLTA survey of 600 on-trade premises highlighted that within the pub and bar sector, 12,500 jobs could go.

Mr Waterson added: “We estimate that two-thirds of hospitality businesses could be mothballed or go under in the coming months.

"Over 50 per cent of jobs in the pub and bar sector could also be lost which will have a particularly deep impact on the employment of young people as over 40% of staff employed are under the age of 25."

He continued: “Our industry is in serious trouble and it is only going to get worse.

"The £40 million financial support package is nowhere near enough to save jobs and prevent operators from going under.

"And once again we do not have details of other financial help promised by the Scottish Government.

“Yet again it is the licensed trade that is suffering and the current measures affect not just our industry but the wider economy. We are extremely disappointed.”

Joe Crawford, director for Scotland at Camra [the Campaign for Real Ale], said: “The First Minister’s announcement of an extra week of pub closures and the prospect of further lockdowns and restrictions from November 2 has come as a hammer blow to pubs and breweries across the country. 

“These businesses feel like they are being offered up as a sacrificial lamb without sufficient evidence that pubs - who have done everything they have been asked to track and trace customers and make their venues Covid-secure - are responsible for transmission of the virus. 

“The Scottish Government must urgently review and improve their support package to make sure all our pubs and breweries get the financial compensation and support they need to get through this extended closure period – and, crucially, also during the tiered restrictions that will follow. 

“In addition, ministers need to give breweries and pubs enough notice about their plans so people can plan and re-stock for opening their doors again. 

“Without a longer-term support package to make up for lost trade and reduced consumer confidence I fear that this could be the end for the beer and pub sector as we know it.” 

Pubs and restaurants in central Scotland were closed for an initial 16-day period earlier this month. 

The rule applies to the Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Lothian and Ayrshire and Arran health board areas.

Only cafes are allowed to remain open between 6am and 6pm.

Pubs and restaurants elsewhere in Scotland can also open indoors until 6pm, but only to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks. 

However they can serve alcohol outdoors until 10pm.

Ms Sturgeon said financial support from the Scottish Government will be extended to cover the additional week of restrictions.