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Scottish hospitality stars call for more help to stave off Covid jobs crisis

By Calum MacLeod

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Amiong the well known hospitality figures supporting the campaign are (top left to right) Tom Kitchin and James Thomson and (bottom) Carina Contini and Nic Wood.
Amiong the well known hospitality figures supporting the campaign are (top left to right) Tom Kitchin and James Thomson and (bottom) Carina Contini and Nic Wood.

Some of the top names in Scottish hospitality have launched a new "Save Our Jobs" campaign calling for urgent support from Westminster and Holyrood to safeguard up to 100,000 jobs before the nationwide furlough scheme comes to an end on October 31.

Michelin star chef Tom Kitchin, Nic Wood of pub and bar collection Signature Group, James Thomson of Prestonfield and The Witchery, Edinburgh’s Carina Contini and the Scotland-wide Crerar Hotels group are leading the campaign to appeal for urgent support from government before it is too late.

Hospitality workers have shared their "Save Our Jobs" selfies on social media to highlight the faces behind the jobs under threat at the moment.

Support has been drawn from across Scotland with hoteliers, restaurateurs, publicans and café owners joining forces in a drive to raise awareness of the scale of the crisis facing the industry. Many business owners are worried that they are running out of time to save vital jobs, many of which are held by people aged between 16 and 24 years old.

This age group currently makes up 50 per cent of the hospitality workforce in Scotland. However, since February, youth unemployment has risen from 6.1 per cent to 14.5 per cent.

The campaign is also keen to raise awareness of that scale of jobs at risk with restrictions not just affecting hospitality venues but the whole supply chain that depends on the industry, such as Scottish food and drink producers, logistical services and maintenance support.

Industry leaders not only believe that more clarity is needed from the Scottish Government on who and when businesses will benefit from the funding made available, but that further financial compensation is required to protect jobs across Scotland.

The hospitality industry are also calling to government to find practical, evidence based solutions to remain open whilst keeping their staff and customers safe.

Tom Kitchin, owner of Edinburgh’s The Kitchin, said: “We’re in really challenging times as an industry and now is the time to act.

"The impact this situation is having not just on Scottish hospitality but also on our supply chain is enormous. I was speaking to a supplier yesterday and he was in tears. Many producers and even members of our team are in great stress and I have serious concerns for their health and well-being if this carries on. Everyone linked to our industry is affected by the restrictions and curfews and hospitality and tourism being such important corner stones of the economy cannot be wiped out.

“Our industry is in a real need of help, especially having only just partly recovered from the first lockdown. We have worked so hard to keep our guests and diners safe in hospitality settings, taking all safety precautions needed to remain safe while enjoying good food and drink. Eliminating the risks of the virus is obviously our greatest concern, but there need to be a balance. For the hospitality future of Scotland.”

Carina Contini added: “This virus has created a health and social imbalance. Our elderly have suffered hugely in both loss of their community and their well-being. The youth have suffered socially with their learning and friendships being hit the hardest.

“But the business imbalance affecting hospitality today which is being hit so much harder than many other professions will cause an even greater long term harm.

“Our hospitality teams, made up of all ages are losing their livelihoods. Our suppliers are being hugely affected. Supermarkets are not picking up the smaller artisans suppliers that feed the independent hospitality market. Our high streets are losing their heart and soul as meeting places for family, friends and businesses.

“Our youth are losing out on the part-time jobs we have always provided for all future carriers from accountants to ballerinas.

“Our family businesses are losing their life-long investments. We are one of the largest contributors to all sectors of our community and economy. We need support to be able to fuel the nation’s recovery. Don’t allow all this good to be lost. It will be a much harder medicine to swallow that any virus.”

The campaign is encouraging sector workers to share their thoughts and photos on social media using the hashtag #SaveOurJobs and #ScottishHospitality.

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