I agree with what many speakers have said about hospitality. While this is a debate about hospitality, I see it very much in my constituency as a very interconnected ecosystem, because without live events and shopping in the city centre, people are not going to come in to spend money in the hospitality sector. There is no pre-theatre meal if people are not going to the theatre, and there will not be the drinks afterwards and the taxi home. Without people coming in for weddings, for example, there are fewer hotel stays and, without the huge conferences and events that Glasgow hosts, the hotel sector is struggling massively.
The wedding sector is huge, particularly in the Asian community in Glasgow. If people have not had the pleasure of attending an Asian wedding in Glasgow, perhaps they have watched the show, “Getting Hitched Asian Style”, on BBC Scotland, and I would certainly recommend it. These are incredibly glamorous and expensive events to put on, and I really feel for Saffron Events and others like it that have tried to diversify in lockdown but which are not able to put on the tremendously elaborate weddings that they usually would. I very much hope that they will be back doing what they love very soon.
It has been incredibly difficult for many of the venues in the city centre that rely on the passing trade of the SSE Hydro. All the restaurants in Finnieston had been booming since the Hydro came to town, and without that, it is much more of a struggle, even when the sector does diversify. Without venues operating such as the Barrowlands, King Tut’s, the King’s theatre, the Pavilion theatre, and all the other theatres and venues within the city centre, the other things that we enjoy very much in our city become much more difficult to sustain.
I urge the Government very much to take on board the errors that they made over the past year. They locked down too late and unlocked too early. The furlough dithering towards the autumn last year cost jobs in the sector—jobs that young people relied on and now cannot get. I ask the Government to look very carefully at extending the 5% VAT reduction for the rest of the year at the very least, as people have not benefited from that, because nobody has been able to go out to restaurants, or to spend money at events, which also had the 5% cut, or on their hair, beauty and at salons, which would also like to see that 5% cut extended to their sector, which again brings many people into Glasgow city centre. We are looking at a sector that has become heavily indebted and dependent on the furlough scheme, and when that goes, the Government will have to think carefully about how it is supported for the rest of the year. It has been the most difficult year for a sector that demands so much of our public joy. I feel very sorry for everybody within that sector, but it is an ecosystem and the Government need to consider it as such. No business stands alone.