Scottish food and drink figureheads plead for rethink on coronavirus curbs as they warn 100,000 jobs could be lost

A range of Scottish chefs have spoken out after the latest restrictions in Scotland were extended.

Published 21st Oct 2020
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

Some of the best-known figures from Scotland’s food and drink scene have joined forces to plead for urgent support from Westminster and Holyrood amid warnings up to 100,000 jobs are at risk from the current coronavirus curbs.

Michelin-star rated chef Tom Kitchin, James Thomson, owner of Prestonfield House and The Witchery in Edinburgh, Carina Contini, owner of restaurants overlooking Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh Castle, and Nic Wood, owner of the Signature Pub Group say time is running out to avoid mass redundancies.

They have also raised concerns that the health and well-being of their workers is being put at risk by the latest restrictions.

Food and drink industry plead - save our jobs

The industry figureheads have spoken out as part of a “Save Our Jobs” campaign being mounted by the Scottish hospitality industry to raise awareness of the impact of the ongoing restrictions on hotels, bars and restaurants, particularly in the central belt, where they have been ordered to remain closed until 2 November.

The Scottish Government is being urge to “practical, evidence based solutions” to allow businesses to keep trading while allowing staff and customers to remain safe.

Mr Kitchin, one of the country’s best-known chefs since opening his Leith restaurant opposite the headquarters of the Scottish Government, 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.

“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.”

Ms Contini, owner of The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant and the Cannonball Restaurant, said: “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.

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“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.

“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 than any virus.”

Mr Thomson said: “Earlier this year I made the incredibly difficult decision to close The Tower after 22 years due to the impact of Covid-19, which absolutely broke my heart.

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"To date we’ve already lost 52 loyal staff and have another 80 events staff who have been forced to live on furloughed pay since March due to the forced closure of events. I now fear losing many more of them and going right back to square one.”

Mr Wood said: “We hope this campaign will drive awareness to the plight of our young workforce as their employment prospects dwindle.

“With the appropriate measures, hospitality can be a covid-secure environment so we want to press that with the right support, the industry can reopen safely, thus protecting jobs.”

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