The founder of one of Scotland’s largest independent pub companies has rounded on plans to ban alcohol advertising.

Nic Wood, of Signature Pubs Group, said in an interview with The Herald that earnings are already “absolutely hammered” and alcohol marketing restrictions will “unfairly penalise” owners and operators of Scotland’s pubs, clubs, restaurants and hotels.

The group, which owns 22 pubs including the Queens Arms, Auld Hundred and Badger & Co in Edinburgh, Paramount Bar in Aberdeen, and The Raven and The Spiritualist in Glasgow, is facing increased wages, energy and rates bills in real terms of £2.4 million this year.

As the consultation closed on the Scottish Government’s alcohol advertising plan this week, quickly following the inauspicious start to the Holyrood deposit return scheme, hospitality businesses are left facing further uncertainty.

“To get to the size we are now and to get to where we are as a business now has taken 18, 19 years.

“Every year, you are making money, you are reinvesting it."

HeraldScotland: The group also has its own breweryThe group also has its own brewery (Image: Signature Group)

He said: "It is another business, another set of staff another set of opportunities, another community that you are linking with another set of people and customers. That is how we’ve managed to get to where we are as a business.

“In the last couple of years, the Scottish Government has not treated hospitality favourably in any way at all.

“If I’m spending all the money on the infrastructure trying to retain and employ people, then that is fine, but also to try and build my business that profitability is not there.

“That profitability that I would try and invest into another bar, and build or refurbish that new unit, and all the staff I would be training up and employing, and then the supplier businesses. This is how an economy builds.”

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He said a UK-wide deposit return scheme might work but that “the practicalities of how the Scottish scheme have been put together are poor”.

“It is ill-thought through. The idea is good but there has to be far more work done on how this works and the practicalities of this. It is affecting small businesses far more than it is big businesses.”

The planned alcohol advertising restrictions plan so far has brought more questions than answers.

“I think we are being very unfairly penalised,” said Mr Wood. “There is a lot of money in drinks advertising all over the world, and I think banning that in Scotland is a very unfair situation to be in.

“Any pub will have branding outside your unit, whether it is an awning, or tables, and chairs, that are paid for by the drinks companies, and it is probably £25,000- £30,000 with the tables and umbrellas.

"Will that be just another cost to us? Are you going to walk into a bar but you can’t see any drink?”

The Federation of Small Businesses said proposals will increase costs, restrict markets, and have negative impacts beyond the licensed trade and drinks industry, while the Scottish Beer & Pub Association urged Scottish ministers to “throw out” the plan.

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