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The Original Social Network

On 02/04/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association led the launch of a short film to promote the ‘on trade’ sector in Scotland at Holyrood on 31st March. With support from the BHA and SLTA, Richard Lochhead MSP, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food & Environment, spoke about the importance of local food, pubs at the centre of their local communities and the crucial role of the licensed trade at the heart of the Scottish economy.

Our host was Christina McKelvie MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse, who appropriately attended with a local publican and talked about pubs as the place to make a ‘pall’, great Scottish food and her discussions in Brussels about the importance of Scotland and, the unique Scottish pub.

So to the facts: there are 4,937 pubs in Scotland; the sector contributes £1.5 billion to the Scottish economy and over £900 million in tax revenues. The beer and pub sector employs over 43,000 people in Scotland of which 40 per cent are under 25. The food and drink industry is worth £13 billion a year in Scotland and it is not just Scots who are increasingly choosing to eat in pubs and bars. Visitors spend nearly £800 million a year. Research by VisitScotland showed that 58 per cent of all tourists said they had eaten in a pub or bar and this figure rose to 71 per cent of overseas visitors.

David Paterson, head of public affairs and social responsibility at Heineken and President of the SBPA, was very clear about the role of the pub in Scotland. He said, “it’s hard to put a pound note value on that. But it’s no coincidence that the important moments in the life of a nation – debate, celebration, sporting success - and failure – are often played out in the pub. For moments like these – people look to the on-trade for those shared experiences. It’s where we catch up with old friends, and make new ones. Where new relationships take their first steps. Sometimes where they falter. Where new businesses and grand plans are born”.

Guests were joined by apprentices on the Diageo ‘Learning for Life’ programme and later moved onto the Hemma pub which, under the ownership of Anna Christopherson, operates as a community hub, offering clubs from pugs to knitting, book clubs to ping pong!

Inevitably discussion turned to the recent change in the drink drive laws in Scotland where the blood alcohol limit had been reduced from 80mg to 50mg. There has been an effect on pubs, but it is early days. SBPA will be undertaking some research into sales figures and report back in the summer. After such a successful launch, we will be looking to the Scottish Government for more support. Already the effect of the drink driving change has been deemed to be a material consideration for business rates in Scotland. More help with business rates and perhaps some marketing of a great industry which contributes so much to Scottish life may be sought after that.


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