THE majority of Scotland's pubs and bars remain on "life support", industry figures have warned, as Glasgow and other areas prepare to move out of lockdown.

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association said Nicola Sturgeon's announcement was "bittersweet" for the industry. 

It said only 42 per cent of Scotland’s pubs and bars will be able open under the new restrictions, leaving many facing tough choices in the run-up to Christmas.

Hospitality leaders also said it was "incredibly disappointing" that Edinburgh will remain under level three restrictions.

Speaking in Holyrood, the First Minister confirmed all 11 local authorities currently subject to level four rules, including Glasgow, will be moved down a tier from 6pm on Friday.

This means hospitality venues will be able to reopen in these areas. However, under level three rules they cannot serve alcohol.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said: "Whilst the news that further economic support for the sector will be outlined tomorrow is hugely welcome and long overdue, the unwillingness of the Government to review the time restrictions on hospitality and lack of progress on the levels in certain areas like Edinburgh, is hugely disappointing. 

"Only 42% of Scotland’s pubs and bars will be able open under these restrictions, leaving the majority on life support.

“The Christmas and New Year period is critically important to businesses in the hospitality sector and the news today that many will be unable to trade as they had hoped and expected will sadly mean some tough business decisions being made over the next few days.

“In order to save jobs and hundreds of Scottish businesses, the Scottish Government must now ensure that the financial support package at least matches those on offer to pubs, bars and their supply chains in Wales. 

"Currently, the average Welsh pub will receive four times more in financial support than the average Scottish pub over the Christmas period."

Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, warned many pubs, bars and restaurants still face the threat of permanent closure. 

He said: “December is a crucially important part of the year for our industry for a number of reasons, but even more so this year as operators struggle to save their businesses.

"The licensed hospitality sector has borne the brunt of heavily restrictive measures this year and the opportunity to be open and doing what we do best over Christmas and New Year would have perhaps given a much-needed morale boost for both operators and staff – and help businesses claw back some of the huge financial losses they have incurred in 2020.

“It is obvious that the licensed hospitality sector is being held up as the sacrificial lamb due to the inability to control the spread of the virus in other sectors and in private homes.

"The Scottish Government must therefore provide proper financial compensation before it’s too late.

“This industry has and will continue to do all that it can to suppress the virus, but it needs financial aid at realistic levels – at least similar to that now available in Wales – if the sector and the staff that it employs are to be here after spring 2021 and be part Scotland’s economic recovery.”

Nic Wood, a spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, which represents some of the biggest names in the sector, said the Scottish Government does not have a "proper grasp" of what the industry needs. 

He said those who cannot trade need to be supported to go into "hibernation". 

Elsewhere, the Federation of Small Businesses urged Scots to shop local as it said there are 12 days to save Christmas for smaller firms. 

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Today’s changes give many Scottish smaller firms an opportunity to salvage some trade ahead of Christmas. 

"But it will have been for nothing if people across the country aren’t prepared to support the traders on their doorsteps.

“That’s why we’re urging the people of Scotland to use the 12 full days from this weekend to the 25th to support their local and independent businesses however they can. 

"No matter where you are in the country, or which level you’re in, we need everyone to do their bit.”

The FSB also urged the Scottish Government to fund a high street voucher scheme aimed at boosting independent operators.

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “We are glad to see that some of the most severe restrictions have eased in areas across Scotland, which will particularly help retailers who will hope to take advantage and trade in the key period leading up to Christmas.

“However, we remain concerned about the ongoing crippling impacts being felt by our hospitality and tourism businesses, who have seen their trade completely dry up and with little prospect of that recovering in the near future.

“It is therefore very urgent that adequate and effective financial support is provided for these businesses as well as for those who have fallen through gaps in business support."

She added: “Businesses across all of Scotland need one thing: to be able to open their doors and trade. Not having to start and stop with their hands tied behind their back. 

"We urge everyone to behave responsibly to support businesses, our families and our employees.’’

Addressing MSPs, Ms Sturgeon said a further package of business support will be set out tomorrow.

She said she knew the restrictions involved "real and continued difficulties for many businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector".

The First Minister said: "I can therefore confirm that the Finance Secretary [Kate Forbes] will set out tomorrow a further package of business support, intended to provide extra help over the winter."

"We will also be considering in the next couple of weeks whether any changes to the content of different levels, particularly as they affect hospitality, could safely be made."