THE UK Government has announced a number of new measures to kickstart Scotland’s economic recovery following the Covid pandemic.

In Wednesday’s (July 8) summer statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled cuts in hospitality and tourism VAT, a jobs retention bonus for furloughed employees and the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ discount, amongst many others – taking total support for Scotland to £4.6bn.

Mr Sunak stressed the importance of tourism to the Scottish economy, particularly in rural and coastal areas, and said that the VAT and eating out measures would be ‘absolutely vital in driving the growth of Scotland going forward again’.

VAT on food, accommodation and attractions will be cut across the UK from 20% to 5% from next Wednesday, July 15, which is when Scotland is due to see all indoor pubs, restaurants and all accommodation re-opened.

The cut will apply to eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafes and pubs, accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites, attractions like cinemas, theme parks and zoos.

Mr Sunak also unveiled a scheme to give 50% off to people dining out across the UK in August as an incentive to restart the economy and as part of the ‘job retention bonus’ announcement, the Government will pay firms a £1,000 bonus for every staff member kept on for at least three months when the furlough scheme ends in October.

Scottish Land and Estates has welcomed the cut in hospitality and tourism VAT as a 'boost to recovery in rural Scotland'.

“The cut in VAT for tourism and hospitality is a measure that we have called for and is one we are delighted to see implemented for rural Scotland,” said chairman of SLE, Mark Tennant. “The huge reduction in visitors has had a massive impact on the sector and if a greater recovery can be fostered for the rest of 2020, the real hope is that rural Scotland will be far better placed to move forward in 2021 and beyond. Both the VAT cut and the Eat Out To Help Out scheme can encourage people to sample more of Scotland’s outstanding hospitality, food and drink.

“We’re pleased also to see the new job retention bonus for employers who bring back furloughed staff,” Mr Tennant continued. “Whilst it does not provide a guarantee that every rural business can maintain each and every position, it provides a softer landing on the conclusion on the furlough scheme and will hopefully aid businesses in their quest to retain valued staff.”

The summer statement also revealed a £2bn "kickstart" scheme to help create more jobs for young people which will cover Scotland, England and Wales.

Mr Tennant responded: “All too often, young people are compelled to leave rural Scotland to access training or jobs this has a real effect on these communities. There is tangible hope that this may not only aid young people returning to the employment market but also increase the opportunities for their career path to be forged in our rural communities rather than purely urban settings.”

NFU Scotland's Political Affairs Manager, Clare Slipper concurred: "It has been a hugely challenging time for hospitality and tourism providers, with the season only days old for some. So, the stimulus announced in the Chancellor’s summer statement of a temporary cut in VAT from 20% to 5% will be a boost which may go some way to support agri-tourism providers in getting back to business.

"Likewise, the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative of encouraging people back to our restaurants, cafes and bars to eat will be a fantastic deal to reconnect diners with Scotland’s world-leading food and drink offering."