Eat Out to Help Out Scheme

– in the Scottish Parliament on 13th August 2020.

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Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the impact of the eat out to help out scheme on the rural and tourism economies in Scotland. (S5O-04477)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Eat out to help out is the United Kingdom Government scheme run by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. It is running every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 3 August and 31 August. We do not currently have information on the number of businesses that have signed up to the scheme or on the number of times that it has been used in Scotland.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for that rather disappointing answer.

I can tell the cabinet secretary that 3,766 Scottish restaurants had signed up to the scheme when it went live on 3 August. Does he agree that that fantastic UK-wide initiative is having a major impact in Scotland?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

We recognise that the scheme is making a contribution, but I caution Graham Simpson to be a bit cautious on whether that will be a “major” contribution. This morning, I spoke to three leading hoteliers in Scotland. They say that, unless the furlough scheme is extended beyond October or an alternative job support package is put in place, the resultant number of people who will face redundancy around Britain will be devastating.

I am never churlish, and I welcome any support. However, to say that the scheme is a “major” scheme, as Graham Simpson did, is to fly in the face of what industry is saying and what employees fear.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Claire Baker has a short supplementary question.

Photo of Claire Baker Claire Baker Labour

It is estimated that music tourism generates around £300 million for the Scottish economy each year. Some music venues have diversified to provide seated restaurants during this period. Although they are being supported by the UK Government scheme, the new hospitality guidance bans the playing of background—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Will you get to your question, please, Ms Baker?

Photo of Claire Baker Claire Baker Labour

The new guidance bans the playing of background music. Will the Scottish Government respond to concerns that that approach is too restrictive and that consideration should be given to—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Ms Baker, that is enough. I asked for short supplementaries.

Photo of Claire Baker Claire Baker Labour

Presiding Officer, it is an important issue, and it is a struggle to get it raised in the chamber. I have five words left to say, if that is possible.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Please be very quick.

Photo of Claire Baker Claire Baker Labour

Could a background music noise level be specified that would not require people to raise their voices?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Of course I sympathise with the point that Claire Baker makes. As it happens, I studied that issue this morning.

I am acutely aware that artists who make their living from performance in particular have really suffered. That is why I am delighted that Fiona Hyslop is providing assistance to the arts sector in Scotland that will really help a number of people who have made their livelihood from that source.

As far as background music is concerned, we have to be very careful. If there is music and noise in a pub, people talk more loudly, and I am afraid that, as they talk more loudly, the propensity to spread the virus increases. In short, that is the problem that we have. I think that there is recognition across the chamber that the cautious approach that the Scottish Government has taken is sensible.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Will you wind up, please?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Although I sympathise absolutely with the points that Claire Baker makes, “caution” should be our watchword for the time being.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I am trying to be very fair and to allow everybody to get in with an opportunity to ask their question, but members are choosing to disadvantage their colleagues. I ask them to think on that.