Colin Smith, SWA chief executive

Wholesalers in Scotland are calling on the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend business rates relief to the wholesale sector to bring it into line with its customers in tourism and hospitality.

The Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) is also calling for an extension to the furlough scheme to secure jobs which are under threat and a VAT cut to stimulate the wider hospitality, tourism and leisure industry.

The industry group has highlighted that despite many food and drink wholesalers losing as much as 90% of their business overnight when lockdown was introduced, they received no rates relief. SWA chief executive Colin Smith said: “While we’ve managed to help some of our members secure lifeline grant support from the Scottish Government’s Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund (PERF) scheme, or their local council, the majority of food and drink wholesalers have received nothing.

“The hospitality, tourism and leisure industry accounted for over 40% of the food and drink wholesale market in Scotland before lockdown so it’s a critical sector for our members. It’s going to take a while for the industry to recover and many are still facing extreme challenges trying to keep their businesses afloat and, crucially, food and drink supplies moving.”

Smith added: “The reopening of outlets – welcome as it is – won’t be enough to sustain the wholesale channel so we need action to stimulate the economy generally as well as targeted support for our members over the long term on what will remain a very challenging and difficult road to recovery.

“Our membership is made up of small, local family businesses through to large national and international-based businesses, but each one has been an unsung hero during this pandemic in making sure that Scotland’s food and drink supply chain remained robust and reliable.

“We want to thank those local MSPs and MPs who have supported us and written to the Chancellor on behalf of SWA wholesalers within their constituencies asking for rates relief and further support for the wholesale sector.

“We hope he takes action immediately given the key role wholesalers play within their local communities, the tourism and hospitality supply chain and the wider Scottish economy.”